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Smithsonian Institution 


Alexander Wetmore 

1946 Sixth Secretary 1955 

OJi^^ . VO L^ 


(Page iyy> 


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Curator of Ornithology of the New York Zoological Park and Lifi 
Member of the New York Zoological Society ; Member 
of the American Ornithologists' Union 





Published September tqos 







|HESE chapters on the Nature life of 
Mexico were written during a trip to that 
country in the winter of 1903-04. We 
reached Vera Cruz on Christmas Day ; 
Guadalajara on New Year's, from which city we made 
three camping trips in the vicinity of the Volcano of 
Colima, in the States of Jalisco and Colima ; and re- 
turning via Vera Cruz, we left that port en route for 
New York at Easter. 

The entire trip was so novel, so delightful, so abso- 
lutely devoid of unpleasant features, and on the whole 
so inexpensive, that it seemed to me that the know- 
ledge of such an outing would tempt many lovers of 
Nature to this neighbouring Republic. As an aid to such 
Mrs. Beebe has added a chapter on " How we did it." 
Our sincere thanks are due to Hon. Levi P. Morton, 
Mr. Madison Grant, and Secretary of State John Hay, 
for letters of introduction which proved invaluable. 
Of the innumerable courtesies extended to us in 
Mexico we are especially grateful for the kindness of 
Gobernador Miguel Ahumada, of the State of Jalisco ; 
to Gobernador Enrique 0. de la Madrid, of the State 
«4 ^" '^ " 

"—:M PREFACE Is:::::::: 

of Colima ; to the Rev. A. C. Wright and many other 
friends in the city of Guadalajara ; and also for the 
extreme kindness of Mr. W. D. Murdock and other 
officials of the Mexican Central Railroad, to whose un- 
failing courtesy much of the pleasure and the profit of 
our trip are due. Our sincere thanks are due to General 
Canada, the American Consul at Vera Cruz, for courte- 
sies extended to us during our enforced stay in that city. 

Mr. C. B. Waite of Mexico City has kindly permitted 
the use of his copyrighted photographs for the front- 
isj^iece and on pages 15, 23, 29, 30, 97, 333, 343, 358, 
and Mr. R. H. Beebe the use of that on page 71. The 
illustrations on pages 27, 33, 83, 108, 111, and 125 
are the work of Mr. Scott. The other illustrations are 
photographs of living subjects taken by myself. 

Parts of certain chapters have already appeared in 
print in the New York " Evening Post." 

To facilitate reference to the birds observed and to 
the mammals which we were able to identify on our 
trip, I have added as an Appendix an annotated list, 
with reference to pages of the book, thus supplement- 
ing the Index. In the preparation of this Appendix 
I am greatly indebted to Mr. E. W. Nelson, of the 
Biological Survey at Washington, for the identification 
of specimens. C. WILLIAM BEEBE. 

I. Waves of the Sea 1 

II. Coast and Tableland 14 

III. Walks in the Cactus Country 37 

IV. Oasis and Desert 66 

V. The Mesquite Wilderness . . . . . .91 

VI. The Marshes of Chapala 106 

VII. Camping in a Barranca 122 

VIII. Nature near Camp . . . . . . . 152 

IX. Near the Twin Volcanos 170 

X. The Magic Pools 205 

XI. Along the Stream of Death 228 

XII. The Tropics 258 

XIII. The Hot Lands of the Pacific 300 

XIV. Around the Volcano by Moonlight .... 340 
XV. How We Did It. By Mrs. C. William Beebe . . 363 


List of the Birds and Mammals observed . . 377 

INDEX 401 


Mexican Motmot. The Pendulum on the Swing { page 100) Frontispiece 

Gannet ............ 2 

Living Portuguese Man-o^-war, Beached ..... 3 

Cahhage-palms and Palmettoes along the Florida Coast ... 5 

Pelicans ........... 7 

Royal Palms, Havana. Botanico Jardin de Universidad ... 8 

Live Needle Fish .......... 13 

Peak of Orizaba 15 

Street Scene in Vera Cruz ........ 17 

One of the Black Scavengers ........ 19 

Orizaba Mountain through the Clouds ...... 23 

The Peak of Ixtaccihuatl. The Sleeping Woman .... 27 

View from Esperanza ......... 29 

Crater of Popocatepetl ......... 30 

Cave Dwellers .......... 33 

Musicians . .......... 36 

Guadalajara Ditch ......... 41 

Desert Sparrow Haiok ......... 43 

Cuernavaca House Finch ........ 47 

Seed-pods ........... 49 

Jalisco Pouched Rat ......... 59 

A Guadalajara Expressman ........ 65 

Guadalajara 67 

The Flying Switch 69 

Belted Kingfisher 71 

A Pintail Duck 73 

Green-winged Teal 75 

American Egret 78 

Organ Cactus .......... 83 

Fossil Tooth of Imperial Mammoth in the Alkali Desert ... 87 

Green Heron ........... 90 

The Barranca of the Rio Santiago . 97 

Nests of Wasps and Sinaloa Wren 102 

::::::::3g: ILLUSTRATIONS B^:::::::: 

The Mesquite Wilderness ........ 105 

La Barca Cathedral, from our Hotel Window ..... 107 

Native Sail-boat on Lake Chapala ....... 108 

Palm Log Raft and Ferry near Chapala over the Rio Santiago . Ill 

Mexican Fisherman llo 

White-fronted and Snow Geese ....... 121 

Plaza at Tuxpan .......... 125 

Tuxpan Cathedral .......... 128 

Our Pack-train 131 

Mexican Goshawk 138 

Mexican Canyon Wren 141 

Elegant Woodpecker 147 

Fork-tailed Hummingbird ........ 150 

A Goshaivk near Camp ......... 151 

Derby Flycatcher .......... 155 

Iguana ............ 159 

The Barranca Cave ......... 161 

Heliconia Butter fies . . . . . . . . .169 

Our Fortijied Camp 172 

Long-tailed Blue Jay . . . . . . - . .175 

Roadrunner ........... 179 

Parrot-fruit Tree 182 

Parrot Food 183 

Mourning Dove . . . . . . . . . .185 

Querulous Flycatcher ......... 187 

Least Flycatcher 188 

Giraud Flycatcher ......... 189 

View in the Barranca ......... 191 

Atit-tunnels on a Fig-tree ........ 193 

Bejiito 196 

Back View of Mexican Motmot ....... 200 

Motmots^ Tails, Young Male and Adult Female .... 201 

Twin Peaks of Colima Volcano ....... 204 

Ridgway Whip-poor-will ........ 217 

Ring-tailed Cat 219 

Nine-banded Armadillo ......... 227 

Broken Tail of Iguana ......... 233 

Daddy-long-legs mimicking Moss ..>.... 239 

:::::::;se ILLUSTRATIONS B:""-- 

The Invisible Dragon-fly ........ 240 

A Leaf Butterfly 241 

The Pines of Colima 249 

Thick-hilled Parrot 251 

Western Mockingbird singing ....... 257 

Tuxpa?i in Early Morning ........ 259 

Our Tropical Cam}) 267 

The Giant Fig-tree 271 

Mexican Opossum playing " Possum " . . . . . . 275 

Mexican Cacique .......... 283 

Pod of Milk-weed Tree 285 

The Cotton Gall 287 

The Grotesque Fruit 289 

The Wooden Caracara 291 

Head of Caracara 299 

Painted Redstart caught on Thorn 307 

A Trapped Fairy 309 

Texas Kingfisher, fishing on Dry Land ...... 318 

Ants' Nest in Tree 319 

The Laughing Falcon 323 

The Coon Hawk 325 

The Skull of a Yaguarondi 326 

Boat-billed Heron 327 

Antlers of Brocket 329 

The Harbour of Manzanillo ........ 333 

Where Swamp and Jungle meet ....... 339 

The Volcano from the City ........ 341 

City of Colima in Early Morning ....... 343 

Colima Ground Sparrow ........ 347 

Old Spanish Bridge 348 

The Old Spa7iish Highway ........ 351 

The Volcano in Eruption ........ 353 

The Trail near Tonila ......... 355 

The Twin Mountains at Night ....... 358 

A Lucky Snap with the Camera ....... 362 

'•«4 xiii ■^" 




[T was the evening of the seventeenth of 
December when our steamer passed Lib- 
erty Statue. A sleety storm drove us 
into our cabin, where we delved for the 
hundredth time into our much-thumbed bird-books, 
strivinsf to make real to our imao'ination the birds we 
hoped to see, and to attune our ears to the sibilant 
tones of the Spanish tong-ue — the language of the 
country whither we were bound — Mexico, the land of 
the Cactus and the Caracara. 

There is one joy of reading, another of painting, 
and another of writing, but none to compare with the 
thrill which comes to one who, loving Nature in all 
her moods, is about to start on a voyage of discovery 
to a land familiar to him in dreams alone. 

<4- 1 -^ 


Before we had passed the restless waves off Hatteras 
we became famiHar with the flocks of Herring Gulls, 
as they gleaned the refuse from the wake of the ship. 


The Stormy Petrels, the Ring-billed Gulls and the Gan- 
nets delighted us, and Black-fish and Dolphins played 
about us day after day. 

Farther to the south we disturbed immense flocks 
of Phalaropes — little sandpipers of the sea — spend- 
ing the winter far from land. Occasionally the steam- 
er's prow bore down upon a solitary Loon, forcing it 
to dive, and in the blackness of night these brave birds 

::::"::3e WAVES OF THE SEA as:::;:::: 

called to us, their wild laughter ringing out above the 
whistle of the wind throuofh the rio-g-inp-. 

When at last we left behind the zone of winter, the 
breeze came softened by the balminess which a north- 
ern sojourner never knows. 

Vessels built by human hands had been few and 
far between, but now we passed a real ship of the sea, 


a tiny galleon of crystal, which floated by, drifting 
before the wind, silent as the Flying Dutchman. 

We were the only ones who hailed it — perhaps the 
only ones who could call its name — a Portuguese 

«4 3 |» 

:::::::::*• TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO Sfe"""" 

Man-o'-War. Its tiny bladder-sail was buoyant and f uU- 
stretclied, reflecting all the hues of the rainbow, and 
the curlino- tentacles trailed after. At siii'ht of it a 
thousand memories of palm-studded shores rushed over 
us, and, looking up, we realized that the miles had 
slipped j)ast more quickly than we thought, for only 
a short distance away was the Avliite beach of mid- 
Florida. It was there — we can discern almost the 
very spot — that last Avinter we watched so many hun- 
dreds of fleets of these selfsame Men-o'-War come to 
grief, wrecks innumerable, but exquisite even in their 

We now edo-ed inshore still closer. The o"lass 
showed every familiar feature ; the feathery cabbage- 
palms, tall and graceful ; the dense, stiff palmettoes ; 
now and then a little cloud of Sanderlino-s bloAvins: 
seaward and back again ; and, finally, a long dark 
undulating line, now throbbing with action, now mov- 
ing smoothly, and we knew that the Brown Pelicans 
were on the way to their fishing-grounds. A flock of 
Bluebills passed swiftly, and high over the land hung 
the Vultures, forever Avaiting and watching. Once, 
with the glass, we made out a mass of circling, soar- 
ing birds. This is the aerial guard of Pelicans watch- 
ing over their islet in Indian River, where last year 
we saw hundreds of nests, eggs, and young birds, all 
crowded closely together on a low island of some 
three acres' extent. Throuoh an inlet we causfht a 

*4" 4 ^ 

::::::::aK WAVES OF THE SEA M 

glimpse of some Wood Ibises, and then began the nnin- 
teresting array of cottages and hotels from Palm Beach 

Before dark we were passing the Keys, — those 
magical islands where we had revelled among the 



angel fish, the corals, and the sponges. A solitary 
Frigate-bird sailed majestically past in the van of a 
short, hard downpour of warm rain. In a few minutes 
all was clear again and a beautiful sunset stained the 
water crimson and silhouetted the channel buoys, 

::":::::*■ TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B--"-"- 

tlirowiiisf into black relief the Florida Cormorants 
and Frigate-birds which make these buoys their roost. 
Allioator Lio'ht at last with measured winks oleamed 
at us from out the darkness, and the warm tropical 
night wind made of snow and winter but a fading 

Early in Ajjril, when we returned through these 
waters, we encountered a terrific storm of wind and 
rain when about one hundred miles east of Jackson- 
ville. Just before the first squall reached us, a male 
Hooded Warbler in full plumage dashed to the 
steamer's rail, balanced a moment, and hid in one of 
the life-boats. Five seconds more and the raging 
wind would have hurled the little creature into the 

Our first view of Cuba was not an especially roman- 
tic one, all that was distinguishable in the early morn- 
ing dusk being the brightly lighted trolley cars moving 
swiftly along the shore. Later, when we approached 
the land and the sun rose, we came under the spell 
of the full beauty of Havana's harbour. Morro and 
Punta passed grey and sombre, the white spray of 
the sea thrown high at their base. Then appeared the 
white, ghstening city, crowding close to the water's 
edo-e, its landward boundarv lost in a setting of em- 
erald hills. We dropped anchor near the bewreathed 
fighting-tops of the historical Maine, and hastened on 
shore in a rolypoly " bum-boat." 
-4 6 -^ 

:::::::::!: WAVES OF THE SEA B::::::::: 

After wandering about the city for a while and see- 
ing the proverbial ixdlos, sefiorltas, mantillas, and 
plazas, which for most travellers are the sum total of 
interest, we took a trolley out into the suburbs, beyond 
the whitewashed walls and blue blinds, to get a flying 


glimpse of Cuban nature. No feathered creatures, 
save the ubiquitous Turkey Vultures, appeared until 
fortune guided us to the Botanico Jardhi de Univers- 
idad, where among the roses and jasmines, the wide- 
spreading rubber-trees, and stately Royal Palms, we 
found birds in abundance. Our minds recorded the 

«4 7 !» 

::::::::»v two BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"""' 

English Sparrows subconsciously, as from habit we 
forgot to give this iutruder a place on our list until 
we left the Garden. A small flock of Anis {Crotopliaga 
cml) — those slender cow-birds of the tropics — kept 
to the tree-tops. In appearance they were like ema- 
ciated Grackles with high-arched bills. The Yellow 
Palm and Myrtle Warblers were abundant, while Cat- 


:::;::::SE WAVES OF THE SEA Is-""" 

birds, Mockingbirds, and Redwings were in lesser num- 
bers. Ground Doves scurried about, and a single 
American Pipit walked ahead of us along the gravelly 
paths. Several vireos and other small birds passed too 
quickly for identification. Two Orioles, with the black 
throats of their second year's plumage, were dusted 
thickly with yellow pollen, making them of a beautiful 
golden green colour. These birds were remarkably tame 
and allowed us to come within four or five feet of them. 
Skinks and other small lizards were everywhere, and 
the brush-piles rustled with their scurrying. Twice 
in succession I saw a small green lizard attacked and 
driven out of sight by a large violet-winged ichneumon 


Forced to be satisfied with these meagre notes of 
Cuban life, we hastily returned to the steamer and 
soon afterward weighed anchor. Half an hour before 
we left the harbour, tiny bats began to fly swiftly 
past us, with a remarkable, unbat-like directness of 
flight. Within twenty minutes, hundreds passed by, 
— coming, perhaps, from some desolate coral cave 
alono- the coast and headino- straio-ht inland. Through- 
out our first night on the Gulf, and all the next day, 
rolled by a heavy ground-swell, our vessel steamed due 

Although birds were unaccountably absent during 
this portion of our trip, their place was taken by 
winged creatures of the sea — our first Flying-Fish » 

«4 9 -^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"--" 

And how curious they are ; descriptions and drawings 
being powerless to give any adequate conception of 
them in hfe ! 

Probably the astonishment which one feels at be- 
holding a fish desert its element, to which it seems 
so helplessly bound, and skim lightly as a bird, yard 
after yard through the air, is no less in a well-read 
student of fishes than in a person who has never 
heard of such a phenomenon. From the bow we 
Avatched the tiny grey forms, which shot ahead just 
below the surface, suddenly emerge, the four great fins 
instantly spreading taut. The smaller posterior pair 
fold up and close occasionally, but the pectoral ones 
remain expanded. A fresh impetus is sometimes gained 
by a second's touch of the tail to the crest of a wave, 
a frantic wiggle sending the little creature up and on 
ao'ain. But soon streno-th and momentum oive out 

o o ~ 

and the flight ends in an unlovely flop into the water. 
Some of the Flying-Fish seem but half an inch in 
length, — from our lookout they are hardly larger 
than blue-bottle flies, — while the largest may be six 
or seven inches from head to tail. Similes between 
marine and terrestrial creatures are often inapt and ill- 
taken, but no one can deny the resemblance between 
these fish and the large flyiug grasshoppers of our 
summer meadows. 

The most exciting event of the day proved to be 
the discovery of several waterspouts — great Atlas-like 

<4 10 #» 

""""SE WAVES OF THE SEA B^:::::::: 

pillars of ever-moving liquid, joining sea and cloud. 
The steamer passed through a small one and dissolved 
it, a sudden torrent of rain representing the synthesis 
of the watery column. 

Early next morning the engines ceased their throb- 
binof and we swuno- round from our anchor in the liofht 
emerald waters, five miles off shore at Progreso, Yuca- 
tan. A trip ashore showed a most barren country, sand 
and dusty mesquite with several scattered palms in the 
far distance ; no birds, no insects, no flowers. Only 
the sisal hemp exporter could be interested in the 
scorching warehouses, and even he seems to yearn to 
leave the country in company with his fibre. Cows 
must be a long-felt want in Yucatan, judging from 
the number which were sent ashore, each mutely pa- 
tient bovine unresistingly allowing herself to be belted 
in a canvas sling and hoisted up and outward to the 
unsteady deck of a lighter. Last of all came several 
netfuls of new-born calves, their legs dangling help- 
lessly through the meshes, protesting with shrill, in- 
fantile bleats at this enforced aerial journey. 

We heard fascinating tales of primeval forests far 
in the interior, and ruins of cities built by a diminu- 
tive race of savages, but our faces were turned toward 
the setting sun and nothing tempted us aside. 

Much of interest was to be seen about the ship. The 
floating garbage attracted thousands of lithe, silvery 
Needle Fish, looking like tiny editions of Gar- 

«4 11 ^ 

:::::::::*" TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*=::::::::: 

pikes. These glided past in schools or fought in swarms 
over bits of meat and bread. Sharks now and then 
cut the water with their long fins and might be tempted 
with pork. Red Snappers and Grunts, the latter with 
beautiful blue and gold-lined heads, were abundant, 
and over the stern rail one could soon catch enough 
for dinner. 

Many hours after the low coast of Yucatan had sunk 
below the horizon, two coral islets appeared, — two 
desolate crescents of sand bravely defying the great 
waste of w^aters. Yet they do not deserve the term 
desolate, for several hundred sturdy feathered beings 
know these little plots of dry land as home. Booby is 
the meaningless name by which these birds are known 
to man, but little care they ; a world of ocean with fish 
in plenty, a mate, a few square inches of dry sand, 
and they are happy and content. The steamers which 
pass now and then might cease to come, mankind 
and his civilization might vanish from the earth, and 
the Boobies would miss nothing. They are blood 
brothers to the Gannets, but are feathered brown 
above instead of white, and enjoy each other's com- 
pany more, flying in long oblique lines close to the 
water. Now and then one dropped from the flock 
like a plummet, seized a fish, SAvallowed it, and rising, 
caught up with his companions, all of whom were 
moving steadily onward, paying not the slightest at- 
tention to the steamer. 

«^. 12 ^ 

::::::::3e WAVES OF THE SEA ^3"":::: 

The sun sank into a sea smooth as glass, and when 
its golden path had faded out, a tiny thread of silver 
was left, — the thin moon-crescent hung even-balanced 
in the Avestern sky, — and our last night on the 
water — our first Christmas Eve in the tropics — was 
one of enchantment. 





'ITH all our alertness and despite much 
peering tliroiigli glasses on Christmas 
morning to catch the first glimpse of the 
low Mexican coast, we found ourselves 
most profoundly deceived and tricked by Mother Na- 
ture. No horizon was ever more closely scanned than 
was that in the path of our steamer, but when a dark 
and ominous-looking cloud slowly rose ahead, we were 
fain to give up the attempt, supposing that the 
approaching storm concealed everything beneath it. 
Idly watching the dark clouds as they gained in size 
and distinctness, the truth suddenly flashed upon me, 
and if ever my eyes beheld a miracle it was in the 
fraction of a second in which the rising banks of storm 
clouds changed to a grand range of lofty mountains, 
apparently rising abruptly out of the sea. But the end 
of the miracle was not yet. Surely those fleecy white 
thunder-caps which edged the apex of the supposed 
storm and so enhanced the resemblance — these at least 
must be what they seemed. I strained and strained 
through the glasses, and, satisfied on this point, was 
about to lower them, when the scales again were lifted 
from my eyes, and the magnificent peak of Orizaba, 

0^ 14 ^ 

::::::::ae COAST AND TABLELAND 3fe:::::::: 

forever capped with snow, stood out against the sky 
hke purest crystal. So clear-cut was it that it seemed 
but an hour or two away in the very path of the steamer. 
We had expected many pleasures in Mexico, but never 
such an introduction — as sublime as it was unex- 

Waite, photographer 


«4 15 -^ 

::::::::si: TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO mii^ 

As if to punish us for our extravagant delight, mists 
and haze soon closed like a curtain over all, to keep 
the coveted sight from our eyes for days to follow. 
An hour or two later, we approached the harbour of 
Vera Cruz, in the teeth of a rising storm, only too 
real this time. We anchored behind the protecting 
breakwater and went ashore in a small and shaky boat, 
which, soon after our landing, was swamped at her 
moorings. Within three minutes after reaching shore 
the wind increased to a hurricane, cutting off all com- 
munication with the steamer and our baggage. On the 
strength of the comforting (?) information that it was 
an unusually severe " norther " and would last two or 
three days, in company with our stranded fellow pass- 
engers, we sadly sought accommodations in this most 
overcrowded and unsavoury of Mexican cities. 

To many of our party, the most enduring memory 
of these first two dreary days will ever be the stinging 
storm of flying sand which filled the air ; others will 
never forget the Vultures which walk about the streets 
and peer hungrily at the passers-by ; T am sure that all 
wall be able to recall the flavour of the paregoric pud- 
ding (or should I call it soj^n de anise-seed ::') which 
was the ^Jiece de resistance of our Christmas dinner. 
But our memories are not altogether unpleasant ones. 
Our pockets were delightfully heavy with great silver 
dollars and other denominations of Mexican money 
which we had received for our American g-old. Some 

<4 16 #* 

::::::::»x COAST AND TABLELAND B:.""-:." 

of this it must be admitted was as soiled in a literal 
sense as it is described in the proverbial filthy lucre. 
But then did we not have more than double our orisr- 
iiial amount ? And there are few of us who would not 


rather have $2.18 (which was at that time the rate of 
exchange) than a single dollar, even though it be fresh 
from the mint ! 

Catching a glimpse from the roof of our hotel of 
the wonderful surf thrown up at the breakwater to the 
northward, we made up our minds to see this rainless 
terrible " norther " and its work, face to face. We 

<^ 17 ^ 

:::::::::*? TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-""" 

found walking- little short of torture until we got to 
windward of the sand dunes outside of the city, where 
the air was clear, althouoh the wind was so stronsr 
that one had to creep on hands and knees. Crouching 
in the lee of the great breakwater, we watched the tre- 
mendous waves roll in ; vast walls of green and white, 
which curved and broke twenty feet above the line of 
ponderous masonry. Vessels would be shattered like 
glass if they were near shore on the outside, and even 
in the protected harbour all their anchors were needed. 
When the waves reached the foot of the breakwater 
the spray was hurled sixty feet or more into the air, 
and the sound was like heavy thunder. Now and then 
huge, handsomely mottled crabs were hurled, frantic- 
ally kicking, through the air, over the breakwater, and 
good-sized fish were twice dashed toward us. 

Other craft than the vessels were riding out the gale 
near us — a trio of Brown Pelicans, facing up wind, 
rising and falling on the waves inside the line of fury. 
They floated upwards a few feet above the water, as 
we approached, but the strength of the wind beat them 
down again. The line of froth of the highest-reaching 
wave on the beach was darkened with the bodies of 
thousands of insects, victims of the storm — tiger 
beetles and small moths predominating. Behind tiny 
clumps of grass along the beach, hard-pressed birds 
had sought safety, and, when forced out of their shel- 
ters, half ran, half fluttered to the next bit of weeds. 

4 18 ^ 


Two Wilson Snipe, four Killdeer Plovers, and several 
small Wilson Petrels were among this gale-stricken 

The strangeness of the Mexicans, and their dress, 
their houses, streets, and markets were of never-failing 


interest ; but well-Avritten accounts of these may be 
found in half a hundred volumes. Many of the cus- 
toms and much of the city life of these people seem 
half familiar after one has perused such books. It is 
the outskirts of the towns and beyond that promise 
the real surprises. 

We welcomed the first movement of the train which 

«4 19 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-"""" 

was to bear us to the town of Orizaba ; and as we 
whirled along, we were " just one large eye." For the 
first few miles, sand, sand everywhere, and as we 
approached the edge of this coastal desert, the ravages 
of the " norther " became plainly visible. Far to the 
north of us, midwinter blizzards were raging ; snow 
was drifting and filling every hollow. Here, although 
nothing had fallen from the sky, a more deadly bliz- 
zard had swept over the land. In some places the sand 
seemed to have been lifted bodily in great masses by 
the gale, and carried inland. Fenced-in gardens of 
vegetables and flowers were a foot deep in level sand, 
while the sombreroed Mexicans were working frantic- 
ally with fingers and baskets to remove the deadly 
weight of stony grains. More than one thatched hut 
was crushed in to windward by the weight of drifted 
sand, and many of the banana palms were buried 
so deep that their low-arching leaves were all held 
fast. We saw where the natives had erected a stout 
barrier to protect a little cultivated patch, but this 
proved merely a challenge which the north wind ac- 
cepted with fierce joy. It was short work to fill in 
the windward side with the shifting dust, and then 
each blast sent a cloud, swirling up the slope to fall 
over the top like a waterfall — a merciless stream of 
blighting sand. 

The train soon left behind this unpleasant zone of 
Nature's warfare, and we passed into dense jungles as 

«4 20 -^ 

:::":"3gL COAST AND TABLELAND as:::;:::: 

tropical as any under the equator. As any zonal map 
will show, while the North Temperate reaches a chilly 
finger far southward along the highest slopes of 
Mexico's tableland, the Tropics are not intimidated, 
but threaten indeed to outflank their eternal enemy 
by sending long slender arms northward up the two 
coasts, where the breath of the equator defies the 
frosts of the snow-capped peaks but a few miles away. 
For mile after mile we rushed on, hardly rising a foot, 
through fields of tasselled cano azucar (sugar-cane), 
through groves of banana and cocoanut-palms, and 
coffee plantations. Marsh and Sparrow Hawks were 
abundant, and an occasional large yellow flycatcher 
flashed past. We began to draw near the mountains, 
which rose high and grand in a single abrupt sweep 
from the flat hot lands, the tlerra caliente, which we 
had left behind us. 

At night, in our hotel in Orizaba, we were reminded 
of our close approach to the cold mountains by a freez- 
ing wind which lasted until late next morning. Amid 
hundreds of roses we shivered and shook as we ate our 
breakfast in the open patio. The insect life of this 
town must go into a semi-hibernation every night, for 
I found many species of moths and beetles stiff and 
numb upon the ground beneath the electric lights. 
Two large and beautiful sphinx moths {Pseudosphinx 
tetrlo) which I held in my hand for some time, revived, 
and at last were able to fly weakly away. 

«4 21 -^ 

:::::::::m TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"--" 

Waiting at the station for tlie early morning train, 
^ we saw nothing but lofty mountains on all sides. At 
the first rays of the sun, the cold night mists drifted 
away, or, glacier-like, streamed slowly into the deeper 
valleys, leaving each depression and hollow of the 
mountain forest overflowing with an intercepted cloud- 
pool, which in the increasing warmth soon sank into 
the foliage or was drawn upward into invisibility. 

Orizaba's cap of snow, which forever hangs above 
this little town, — its namesake, — was not visible in 
the early morning, owing to the mists which filled the 
upper air. The mountain directly facing the station was 
not a large one and was near at hand, and when the 
dense clouds suddenly cleared away, we were astonished 
to see its blunt summit capped with a dazzling mass of 
snow. Every detail stood out clear-cut ; it seemed as 
if we might almost walk to the summit, throw a snow- 
ball into the streets of the town, and return in time for 
the train. But the mystery of this small, low moun- 
tain, thus snow-covered, was not solved until we walked 
a few hundred yards to one side and, to our amazement, 
the cap of snow had slid a little off the mountain ! 
The explanation was then clear. Orizaba, although 
over forty miles away, was directly in a line with the 
small mountain near the station, and at that place the 
snow-cap fitted so exactly upon the lesser mass that 
closest scrutiny with the glass failed to show the decep- 
tion, while the clearness of the atmosphere mocked 

«4 22 >* 


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every estimate of distance. Thus Orizaba scored a sec- 
ond time upon us, putting to nauglit the evidence of 
our senses. 

The town of Orizaba is said to be very healthy, 
although here, as in Vera Cruz, the sanitary arrange- 
ments are most primitive, and with the sun come the 
ebony hosts of the feathered board of health — scav- 
engers in the shape of Black Vultures and Blackbirds. 

The I'ide of the first few hours beyond Orizaba is 
one of the most wonderful experiences in Mexico, if 
not indeed in the world, and both words and pictures 
fail utterly to describe it. The train is drawn by a great 
double engine, and the grade is remarkably steep. 
Round and round Ave slowly wound, in and out of the 
valleys and mountain clefts, ever higher and higher. 

First we passed along the bottom of a wide valley ; 
then, leaving it behind, we pierced tunnel after tunnel, 
five, ten, fifteen, and more, each separated by a beau- 
tiful vista of the valley below, growing ever more dis- 
tant. Near the centre of the valley, a tall solitary poplar 
at the edge of a little pond is a prominent landmark, 
which comes again and again into view from differ- 
ent points of the compass. The engines puff laboriously 
up to a station set deep in the woods, and dark-faced 
Lulian women cluster at the windows holding up gourds 
of orchid plants or oranges or enchaladas. " Comjyrar 
J as naranjas ? Favor de comprar las Jlores ^ " they 
beseech for an interval, and the train passes on. 

«^ 25 ^ 

::::•.::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO j*:"""" 

Half an hour later, another wayside station comes 
into view and the identical women crowd up as before, 
Avith the same baskets and gourds of wares. This shows 
how laborious and slow was our progress ; the Indian 
women had run throuoh the woods and now again 
intercepted us, many miles from the last station, as the 
track lies. The natives often send freight from place 
to place, helping to load it on the car, then running 
by some short cut, beating the train, unloading their 
basfo-ao-e, and thus saving- all car-fare. 

At last we were so high that the large cultivated 
fields looked like squares on a checker-board, and the 
herds of grazing cattle became tiny black dots. The 
most wonderful j^henomenon of this ascent was the 
change in vegetation. Oranges and bananas were re- 
placed by plants of the temperate zone, and before the 
highest point was reached, the vistas of the tropical 
lowlands were framed in the needle-tracery of cold- 
loving jDines. Three hours' travel on this train will 
teach one more of physical geography than three months 
of study. At Esperanza we were more than a mile above 
the level of the sea, and here the engines were changed, 
the big fellows to rest a day and to-morrow to slide 
gently back to Orizaba. 

As suddenly as we entered the mountains, so with- 
out warning we left them and found ourselves rushing 
along through clouds of dust across a plain, the begin- 
ning of the great Mexican tableland, which extends 

«4 26 ^ 

Scott, iih..t.._'rni)hfr 



from coast to coast. By far the larger part of this 
area which is seen from the train may be described 
as one enormous pulque patch, puUiue being- the 
national intoxicating drink. This is obtained from the 
maguey plant, great century-plant-like growths which 
are about the only green things that will grow in 

Waite, photographer 


this saltpetre-permeated earth. The great spike-leaved 
plants are placed in rows about ten feet apart in each 
direction, and for mile after mile, league upon league, 
these rows reach to the horizon. As the train passes, 
the radiating oblique lines, focusing at one's eye, 
seem to revolve in a continuous 

maddening, reeling 

.«4 29 !«■•• 

:::::::::*• TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO m::::::::: 


Waite, photographer 


But Orizaba was still in plain sight to soothe the 
most tired eyes. Lofty, sublime, chaste, it ever stands, 
with that wonderful character common to snow-capped 
peaks, of seeming to hang suspended in the air, with 
no touch of the earth beneath. The old Aztec pyra- 
mids of the Sun and Moon appeared, and were left 
behind, and finally the white heads of Popocatepetl 
and Iztaccihuatl came into view. We found that Ori- 
zaba had left us few adjectives wherewith to express 
our admiration of the majestic beauty of these moun- 
tains, the " Smoking Mountain " and his mate the 
" Sleeping Woman ; " but we began to realize, what 
became ever more true to us, that the volcanoes and 
snow peaks of Mexico are among the greatest pleasures 

«4 30 #♦ 

;:::::::ae COAST AND TABLELAND m:::::;:: 

this country has to give to a lover of God's Nature. 
The alkah dust rose thicker and penetrated every 
crevice until we were almost smothered behind our wet 
handkerchiefs as we rumbled into the station of the 
City of Mexico. 

The capital city is Americanized to such an extent 
that it lacks the charm of a typical city of either 
country, and one may find a greater enjoyment and 
novelty in the more suburban parts, amid the beauty 
of the Vega Canal, or the stateliness of Chapultepec. 
Within the grounds of the latter historical place was 
a pitiful little zoological garden, perhaps the only one 
in the Republic. Here, in a few small, rickety cages, 
were some Mexican Deer, Peccaries, dogs, pigeons, 
and rabbits, a magnificent Harpy Eagle, and a forlorn 

The cathedral, with its softened, incense-laden air, 
its quiet, impressive hush, so different from the bustle 
outside, seemed out of place on this side of the globe, 
so venerable and mediaeval is the effect it produces. 
This very day was being celebrated as its three hun- 
dred and sixtieth anniversary. 

Occasionally, during our all-night ride westward 
from the capital, I peered out of the window of the 
sleeper into the dim light of the night, but pulque 
plants by moonlight were all that rewarded me. With 
the coming of dawn the country appeared more divers- 
ified, and fields of maize-stubble alternated with the 

«^ 31 ^ ""• 

:::::::3x. TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO >*::::::::: 

leagues o£ magueij — enough of the latter, one would 
think, to provide the whole world with delirium tre- 
mens. Birds became much more numerous. Cowbirds, 
in dense, compact flocks of a thousand of more, rose 
and whirled away in unison, and almost every good- 
sized tree had a Shrike perched on the topmost branch. 
The line of Sparrow Hawks on the telegraph wires was 
unbroken, about one to every eighth pole. They 
showed not the slightest fear of the passing train, and 
left their perch only when some large insect or small 
bird rose near by. Twice we saw them attack Cow- 
birds almost as large as themselves, the two falling, 
fiercely struggling, to the ground. We were told by 
an engineer who was an accurate observer of birds 
that occasionally these valiant little hawks were over- 
come by birds of greater strength than themselves, 
which they had fearlessly attacked. 

The momentary glimpse of some small ponds showed 
a vast assemblage of ducks and wading birds and made 
us impatient for our journey's end. We found the 
Mexicans more and more interesting, and each little 
station offered something new. Blind musicians, who 
twanged guitars strung with eighteen strings, and 
chanted Paloma and other odd-timed Mexican or 
Spanish songs, were led beneath the windows. We 
were astonished to hear them all join at the end in 
screaming the melody of " After the Ball is Over," 
and we wondered how that time-worn tune could have 

«<• 82 •*» 

:::::::::«£ COAST AND TABLELAND B^""."- 

reached thus far. We were at fault in this, however, 
for these people have more right to the air than 
we. The plagiarism lies with us, for the air is an old, 
old Spanish one, and the musical words which the 
Mexicans use antedate by many years our frivolous 

An old man approached and began to imitate famil- 
iar sounds ; a dog's bark, a cock's crow, a bird's trill- 
ing, were excellently rendered, and cinco centavos 
made him happy. At each small station the throng 
was a strange, most picturesque one. Once a young 
Mexican of twenty or thereabouts climbed on board 
and walked down the aisle of the car, looking curiously 
at everything, but never ceasing to knit a gaudy, red 
sweater-like affair. This feminine occupation was 
thrown into stronger relief by his large-calibred 
revolver and embroidered belt of cartridges. 

The Mexicans ingeniously utilize the large crotches 
of trees as receptacles for stacks of fodder, and a tree 
thus filled to overflowing with corn-stalks is a curious 
sight. The fodder is, by this means, kept out of the 
reach of hung-rv cattle and burros. 

A station often shows nothing but a rickety, shed- 
like buildino- the town beinp' at a distance and out of 
sio'ht. In some cases the natives have reverted to cave- 
dwellings, hewn into the rocky clifFs, the entrances 
to which remind one of a colony of Bank Swallows on 
a gigantic scale. 

«4 ^^ ^ 

:::::::::m TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO ;P"""" 

All these, and a hundred other mipressions, held 
our interest before we backed down into our last stop- 
ping-place, the Estaclon de Guadalajara. They left 
us with a confused but realistic appreciation of the 
strangeness and isolation of this sister republic of ours, 
whose land adjoins us, and yet whose ways and cus- 
toms are separated from ours by centuries of time and 
a vast decree of culture. 




lARLY on New Year's Day we were awak- 
ened by the song- of birds — not the morn- 
in"" carols of those we were so eag-er to see 
and hear, but an ahnost eontmuous series 
of clarion tones from hundreds of roosters. Far and 
near they flapped and crowed and crowed again, and 
our i^atio rang with the sound. Before the last few 
lingering crows died away, dozens of church bells 
began to toll, some sonorous and slow and others with 
frantic clangs. Succeeding these, more or less expert 
buglers chimed in, scores from the various barracks 
blowing loudly if not well. Apparently the 7'eveille 
was the object of most of their efforts, certain individ- 
uals sounding taps, Avhich made up in vigour of blast 
what was lacking in appropriateness. 

Our Guadalajara home was well on the outskirts of 
the city, in easy walking distance of the transvia, 
which, behind three galloping mules, shrieked along 
the uneven rails and afforded rapid transit to the jyhiza. 

Several minutes' walk in the opposite direction, and 
the narrow street frayed out into a few straggling, 
thatched huts, beyond which stretched the level sun- 

«4 37 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B^"-" 

burnt plain which separated the city from the surround- 
ing hills. 

The air in early morning was as keen and fresh as 
that which blows across a Nova Scotia upland, and 
we forgot that we were well south of the Tropic of 
Cancer. The pumice which crackled underfoot showed 
why the poor grass and weeds shrivel at the first lack 
of moisture at the beofinnino- of this rainless season. 
There was nothing in the level country extending be- 
fore us mile upon mile, to suggest that we were at an 
altitude above the clouds of distant New York — a mile 
above the sea. We almost expected to see the Mexican 
clouds appear close overhead, perhaps just clearing the 
fields as they floated along. But here they were, as high 
as ever above the ground. 

A little distance beyond the last hut, we came upon 
a number of bare-legged, sandalled Mexicans shivering 
in their red serapes. They had scraped away the sur- 
face covering of pumice and were grubbing up a bed 
of clay — literally making " bricks without straw," 
This recalls one of the greatest delights of city life in 
Mexico — the house with a j^ctiio or open central court, 
bright with sunlight all day and glistening in the star- 
light or moonlight at night. Yet in such a house one 
lives more secluded than in a solid American dwelling. 
It is an ideal home for such a climate as this — perpet- 
ual camping out. 

We realized why these adobe houses blended so 

«4 38 #* 

::::::::siv WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY ;*::::::::: 

naturally into the landscape, seeming more like nat- 
ural dunes or mounds than artificial productions of 
mankind. Here we stood and watched these dusky 
natives hew out the very ground, add a little water, 
mould into large rectangles, pile one upon the other, 
and lo ! one's house is built ! No wonder the outer 
walls become lichened and weathered as soon as they 
are erected. The adventitious vines and weeds which 
sprout from wall and roof grow from seeds which, 
like the Egyptian wheat kernels, may have been long- 
buried beneath the barren pumice. A home well worth 
living in, where one can plant flowers and vines in 
the walls from base to roof, where one's window-pot 
of bloom may root, not in the pots, but in the very 
window-sill itself ! Why not a kitchen garden growing 
on the kitchen, where are earthen furrows, instead of 
lapping shingles ! 

How close to Nature one seems to live thus ! closer 
to Mother Earth than did Thoreau at Walden ; and yet 
when this framework of mud is clothed within with 
clean plaster, in rooms cool-tiled and with ceilings of 
taut linen, sleep and study and the joy of very life 
come in pleasantest forms. 

It is in the making of gardens and to the lover of 
flowers that one thinks of -d patio as ideal. Pitiful is 
the remembrance of the unfortunate plants which strug- 
gle for life in the steam-heated houses of the North, 
when we see our Mexican indoor, open-air garden. 

«4 39 ^ 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B-""-: 

Coffee-trees are beaded with their red fruit, carnation 
and geranium bushes reflect brilhant masses of colour. 
To walk to parlour or dining-room we pass strawberries, 
great heliotropes, and climbing ferns, and all through 
the moonlight nights, the odour of unpicked violets 
and gardenias passes like incense throughout the whole 

What city veranda or back yard can compensate for 
the deliii'lit of being- able to recline on one's couch and 
watch the wonderful hummingbirds, attracted by the 
flowers, shoot down into one's very house, or again in 
the dusk when those ghosts of hummingbirds — great 
gray sphinx moths — visit the patio, uncoiling their 
long tongues and drawing np the sweet nectar from 
the calyxes ! 

But to return to the fields which stretched beyond 
the makers of bricks. It is not difficult to describe 
a Guadalajara winter landscape where the last drop of 
moisture fell in October, and the sun shines unclouded 
by storm until the following June. Here and there, 
far apart, we saw^ large mesquite-trees, but besides these 
the eye rested only on maize-fields, with the brown 
stalks of the last crop still standing. These fields are 
divided off, not by fences of stone or wire, but by 
ditches eight to ten feet in depth and as many Avide, 
while along each side runs a fringe of tall cactus, mak- 
ing trespassing often a difficult and j^ainful process. 
These inverted fences are to drain off the excess water 

«4 40 -^ 

::::::•::*; WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY B::::::::: 

during the season of rains, but we found them useful 
for reasons of our own. 

Our progress was at first discouraging. The way 
was hot and dusty, and the cornstalks crashed under 
the lightest step, alarming all the birds for yards 
around. At last, while watching a hummingbird 

■wf- 41 ^ 

:::::::::*• TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B--— 

through my glasses, I slipped and fell mto a ditch and 
I remained there the rest of the day, not because of 
inability to get out, but because I found these ditches 
most delightful and profitable places in which to ram- 
ble. Ramifying as they do about every field, we made 
our way in any direction without ascending to the 
ground above. The broad green pads of the cactus 
arching overhead shut out the glare of the sun, while 
the lacework skeletons of the fallen leaves made our 
footsteps noiseless. 

But all this was to little advantage if these sunken 
avenues offered no attractions to the birds and other 
wild creatures. Our most sanguine hopes were realized, 
as future walks demonstrated. Not only did the birds 
and small beasts rush to the protection of the ditches 
when alarmed in the open fields, but here many had 
their homes, here the birds roosted at night, and a much 
larger number found their food by day. We might 
have rambled for weeks through the fields, and have 
credited this semi-desert region with a much more 
meagre fauna than was concentrated in these cool and 
pleasant alleys, where we were as secluded as if miles 
away from the city, although in reality only a few 
hundred yards from the end of the streets. 

The Desert Sparrow Hawks ^ were as abundant and 

^ Two Sparrow Hawks which were shot by a young Mexican were 
typical of the Western race phaloena. Whether our common Eastern 
form was represented we could not determine, as we were not able to 
distinguish the cliaracteristics in the living birds. 

«4 42 ^ 


:::::::::*f WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY ;*::::::::: 

tame in this locality as all along* the railroad from the 
eastern coast. The little fellows seemed to have staked 
out claims for themselves, over which each individual 
held sway, levying heavy toll upon the mice and grass- 
hoppers within his chosen domain. About every fifty 
yards along the rows of cactus, a Sparrow Hawk had 
his perch, from which he occasionally sallied to snatch 
an insect from the ground. Now and then a Marsh 
Hawk skimmed past, reflecting in his flight every 
inequality of the ground. As he passed from the range 
of one Sparrow Hawk to another, each in turn rose 
and fluttered above him with complaining cries, and 
long after the larger but inoffensive bird had passed 
from our sight, his course might be traced by the suc- 
cession of irate Sparrow Hawks shrieking their " chilly- 
chill y " at him. 

The most abundant bird hereabouts was the Clay- 
coloured Sparrow. It brought to mind the Chipping 
Sj)arrow of the North in its tameness and general 
appearance. Flocks of hundreds of these little birds 
fed upon the weed-seeds among the dead corn, and after 
a hawk had passed we might almost step upon scores of 
them, so closely did they hug the ground in terror. 
When they rose, it was with a whirr of wings worthy of 
a much larger bird, a short flight and a swift, long run 
behind a sheltering furrow. Almost as abundant were 
the Western Lark Sparrows, haunting the fields and 
ditches. The handsomely marked head, black-centred 

<4 45 |» 

:::::::::^v two BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO >»::::::::: 

breast, and white-tipped tail of this bird make it easy 
to know at sight. It has not the trace of a crest, yet 
a habit of often raising the feathers on its head would 
certainly lead a casual observer to credit the bird wdth 
such an ornament. 

No lover of birds need be ashamed of the exclama- 
tion "Purple Finches!" which he would be sure to 
utter at first sight of the large flocks of birds in the 
fields, and often in the very streets of Guadalajara. 
They are House Finches, and although belonging to 
the same genus and very like in plumage to the pui^- 
'purexis of our Northern cedars, yet they are radically 
different in habits. Like the Bob-Whites and certain 
other birds, the House Finches of Mexico are split up 
geographically into eight or nine races, and the sub- 
species inhabiting this region is designated the Cuer- 
navaca House Finch. They are the English Sparrows 
of Guadalajara, and they are indeed a vast improve- 
ment on that interloper. Their delightful colouring 
and sweet, warbling song, uttered often from the dusty 
streets, made us realize all the more forcibly the total 
lack of charm of Passer domestlcus. Sometimes about 
sunset fifty or a hundred of these House Finches in 
all stages of colouring — from brown through parti- 
coloured hues to pink or deep rose — would rise from 
the fields and pass with a slow, fluttering flight over 
our heads westward, all singing their sweetest. It was 
a most unexpected pleasure, repeated again and again. 

<■:*• 46 ^ 



Apparently their song was as perfect now in January 
as durinir the nestino- season, a few months later. 

Once and once only did I see the Arizona Pyrrhu- 
loxia in Mexico. My sudden but fortunate descent into 
the ditch alarmed a pair of birds which flew up and 
gave me a full view of their beauties — Cardinal-like 

4^ 47 ^...■. 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO j*-""" 

in action and crest, but a delicate light gray in colour. 
The female bird had just a suggestion of rose upon 
throat and breast, but her mate, perching with half- 
opened wings, glowed with the pure warm colour from 
forehead, breast, underwings, and flanks. After a 
minute both birds disappeared and evaded all further 

No matter how dried up a place appears, some flower 
or plant finds nourishment enough to grow, and the 
ditches and corn-fields of a Guadalajara midwinter 
were no exception. Tall, thistle-like Mexican poppies 
sent forth their pale, lemon-coloured flowers, brighten- 
ing the dusty plain, and among the weeds growing 
from the sides of the trenches were multitudes of tall 
stalks bearing long, pendulous, scarlet blossoms, a spe- 
cies of wild lobelia. Our favourites amonof the few 
blossoms of this season were little wild ground ver- 
benas which purpled the parched furrows in many 
places. Their leaves were brittle, their roots seemed 
as dry as a husk, yet they managed somehow to grow 
and blossom in numbers. 

The most interesting objects for the botanists were 
the many curious seed-pods of the weeds and other 
plants hereabouts, from the great fruit clusters of the 
castor-oil plants to the tiniest of seed-plumes. 

As we rambled throuoh the trenches we sometimes 
brushed against a mass of large golden globes, strung 
close together along the leafless twigs of the plant — 

«4 48 ^ 

:::::::::*• WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY m::::::::: 

brittle and five-sided and as light as air. They re- 
minded one in shape somewhat of the sea-jellies {Beroe) 
which drift in the currents of the ocean. And the 
simile is not confined to the exterior, for within liangs 
a small round sac containing the tiny flat brown seeds, 
just as, in certain of the animal jelly-fishes, the pendu- 
lous stomach is swung. Out of curiosity I counted the 
seeds in one of these seed-vessels and found two hun- 
dred and fifty-three. A single branch which I brought 
home with seventy-nine globes would, therefore, scat- 
ter some eio-hteen thousand fruit. The least touch or 


:::::::::C TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO Afe"""-'- 

breath of air sets each of these many seeds vibrating 
within their hollow spheres, producing a sweet, sifting 
tinkle, comparable to nothing I have ever heard in 

In the Guadalajara ditches we began to realize that 
Mexico is a land of thorns and spines. Indeed the seeds 
are about equally divided between those furnished with 
hooks or spines, and those intended to be wafted away 
by the wind. One low, spreading bush has a double 
chance for distributing its seeds. When it dries up, the 
stalk breaks off almost at the first breath of air, and 
the light, thorny mass, more or less globular in shape, 
is rolled and tumbled far across the fields. Several 
times a number of these bushes blew toward us so rap- 
idly that we could not escape them, although we knew 
from experience that much time and patience would be 
necessary to free our clothing from the barbed and 
rebarbed burrs. 

How we wished for handbooks to name all the seeds 
and plants, but the price one must pay for the pleasure 
of rambling among birds and flowers in a little-known 
country is that one must, like Adam, give his own arbi- 
trary common names to many of the objects he ob- 
serves. It is very disappointing, too, when one returns 
and finds that an appropriate title which one has 
bestowed and which, from daily repetition for months, 
has become closely associated with the bird or flower, 
must be replaced by the name of some describer or 

«<■ 50 ^ 

:::::::::=»v WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY ;*::::::::: 

prefaced, in some instances, by an adjective neither 
euphonious nor appropriate. 

The most abundant objects in the ditches were grass- 
hoppers which tumbled down from the fields above and 
could not escape. So here the birds found a feast con- 
tinually renewed, where they might eat their fill from 
morning until night. The White-rumped Shrikes knew 
of this ample supply, but had to manoeuvre carefully 
to keep out of sight of their rivals, the Sparrow Hawks. 
These beautiful butcher-birds kept close to the cactus 
tangles. Twice we saw small birds attacked and killed 
by the shrikes, and each time, although the onslaught 
was made among a large flock of Clay-coloured Spar- 
rows, it was a Western Grasshopper Sparrow which was 
the victim. Who can tell the reason for this? Did the 
glint of gold on the wings of the little finches catch 
the shrike's eye, or did some slight lack of skill in 
dodoinof turn the balance of fortune ao-ainst them ? 
If only we might take, at such moments as these, the 
" bird's-eye- view " of the shrike, many problems of 
evolution and the " survival of the fittest " would 
become plain ! 

One feathered inhabitant of the cactus ditches eluded 
identification for a long time. It was a " chunky " brown 
bird, looking more like a big female English Sparrow 
than anything else, but with a knack of slipping out of 
sight just before one could focus one's glass. At last 
we traced it to Pipilo, although it little resembled our 

«4 51 ^ 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO sfe."""- 

Northern Chewiiik in actions. Plpilo fuscus brought 
us nearer to its sjDecial name, but not until later did we 
learn that its common name was a literal translation — 
Brown Towhee. While we were in Mexico, it was to 
us '"'' Pqnlo fuscus,''' which slipped behind the cactus 
screen or skimmed up and over the adobe walls — more 
mouse than bird. 

A closely related but much handsomer bird was the 
Green-tailed Towhee, not a Plpilo despite his name, 
but intermediate structurally between the true towhees 
and the group of White-throated Sparrows. It cer- 
tainly reminded one of both groups. Like the Brown 
Towhee it kept to the weed tangles of the ditches where 
it was easily watched as it fed on the small seeds and 
the lesser grasshoppers. It is strikingly marked with 
a rufous, almost red cap, and a white throat, grayish 
green above and l)righter green on the wings and tail. 
A mewing note, like that of a Red-eyed Vireo, was the 
most common utterance of this bird. 

Day after day tiny green-garbed warblers traversed 
the ditches, confidingly seeking their diet of smallest 
insects, within a few feet of us. What could they be ? 
W^e puzzled and puzzled over them in vain. At last 
I secured one and we made sure of the identification, 
— scientifically, Helminthophila celata lutes cens {^idg- 
way) ; commonly, the Lutescent Warbler. To my mind 
a bird in the bush is w^orth a whole flock in the skin 
drawer, but the characters of modern classification 

«4 52 ^ 

:::::::::§x WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY ;*::::::::: 

often require more than the eye and the opera-glass 
can reveal. And indeed, aside from the delicate grad- 
ations of colour and form, it is often a most difficult 
thing to recognize on sight, a bird, the description of 
which one has read several weeks previously. Some 
character seems to be added or something lacking, 
such is the effect of the environment and the excite- 
ment of seeing a new bird for the first time. 

We took our meals at the delightful El Sanatoyno, 
where one finds a haven of good American cooking in 
a land of beans and fried unleavened corn-cakes. The 
two-storied 2^(^ti'0 was always filled with flowers, great 
geraniums and heliotropes making the air fragrant by 
day ; and the immaculate cereus blossoms pouring 
forth their perfume in the moonlight. During Janu- 
ary and February the entire front of the building was 
a mass of purple BougainmUea. 

What a source of curiosity a naturalist and his wife 
are to fellow boarders ! Many people seem incapable 
of believing that any one can be so foolish as to waste 
time in watching birds and insects for mere pleasure. 
When Ave would return from one of our camping trips, 
this one would have a suspicion that I was secretly 
prospecting for gold ; another would be sure that I 
was surreptitiously locating marketable timber. But 
finally one and all expressed astonishment that they had 
been living so long with eyes blinded to the beautiful 
things of the world. They began to realize that the 

«4 53 ^ 


birds of the surrounding gardens and fields were more 
than "just birds;" that they had colours and songs, 
traits and habits, interesting because of the hidden 
meanings of each — for protection or recognition, 
for safety of themselves, their mates, or their young. 
And behold, the pure gospel of God's out-of-doors had 
won more converts ! Then they began to flood us with 
questions. To satisfy them all would have necessitated 
giving up many walks and rides. So we turned over 
to them Mrs. Bailey's " Handbook of Western Birds," 
which we had found so useful, and many and strange 
were the discoveries that they made. We ourselves 
knew only too little about Mexican birds ; but when 
marvellous notes of pink-breasted, blue-eyed hawks 
and long-legged hummingbirds were given us in all 
good faith for verification, we gave up. It is indeed 
remarkable how differently a bird will appear to a num- 
ber of untrained observers. Whether owing to a wide- 
sjDread partial colour-blindness, or to the elusive glints 
of sunlight on a bird's plumage, the range of colours 
and size with which a single unfortunate bird may be 
endowed, is astonishing ! 

Although in our walks about Guadalajara we saw 
thousands upon thousands of cactus-trees, their strange 
structure and appearance never ceased to impress us. 
There was nothing to which they could be compared ; 
the great trunks and massive branches were very dif- 
ferent from those in our Northern conservatories. Only 

«4' 54 ^ 

:::::::::«? WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY xfe:::::::: 

in the tubular yellow flowers does the nopal cactus 
seem to have affinity with other plants. These flowers 
spring adventitiously from the sides and edges of the 
pulpy, spiny pads — one can hardly call them leaves. 
A discovery which was as interestino- to us as thousfh 
we were the first to record it was that the oval pad is 
the unit of which the entire tree is composed. The two 
or three terminal pads were usually bright green and 
covered with groups of the unpleasant spines. The 
next was greenish brown in hue, with blunted spines 
and the succeeding ones merged more and more com- 
pletely into one another, at the same time becoming 
thicker and developing a false kind of bark. This 
resulted in a rough, brown-barked trunk and spineless 
branches, which appeared identical with those of old, 
gnarled apple-trees. A close examination would, how- 
ever, show faint traces, down to the very ground, of 
the internodes between the units. How curious, too, 
when a dead branch fell, to see a tightly wrapped 
bundle of delicate lace fibres instead of splinters and 
decayed wood. We wondered how the birds could 
alight so suddenly upon the spiny pads without being 
wounded. Indeed one Lark Sparrow was impaled as it 
attempted to dart through a maze of the sharp points. 
But mockingbirds and towhees, finches and shrikes 
seemed never to hesitate an instant in perching. 

Two species of hummingbirds were always to be 
found along the ditches, conspicuous to eye and ear. 

44 55 ■$»• 

:::r.::::^x TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO ;p:::::::: 

When first we caught sight of a tiny form perched 
upon a twig, we reahzed that we were indeed in a new 
world of birds, for this was no Ruby-throat. 

To our Eastern eyes this was a strange, foreign bird ; 
but a CaHfornian would have recognized it at once. It 
was the Costa Hummingbird, hke ourselves, a winter 
visitor to these parts. His mite of a body was green 
above and whitish below, while his head was encased 
in a marvellous helmet of burnished violet, an ame- 
thystine scale armour, which flashed blue, green, and 
violet by turns. This was the most abundant hum- 
mingbird of the Guadalajara ditches, during the first 
week in January. The first individual at which we 
had a good look proved to be in exceptionally perfect 
plumage. The others of his kind were young birds in 
moult, with the iridescent feathers few and scattered, 
the majority being still buried in their enfolding 
sheaths. After a week all the individuals of this spe- 
cies disappeared and we saw no more during our stay. 

A second hummingbird, typical of the ditches, was 
clad in green and buff, with a gorget of gold, green, 
and fiery red. This was the Rufous Hummingbird, and 
we were glad to see him in the life ; for his fame as 
a traveller had lono- been known to us. Here he was 
near the northern limit of his winter home ; but in the 
spring his race will hum away to the mountains of 
the North, some content to nest in the higher altitudes 
of the Western States, but many brave little fellows 

«4 ^^ "^ 

::::::::5>x WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY ;*::::::::: 

traversing Canada, on and on until they sight the snow 
peaks of Mt. St. EHas in Alaska, far north of Sitka. 
The little fellows were ever squeaking and humming 
about our ears, disputing our invasion of their hunt- 

These noisy little chuparosas, — flower-suckers, — 
as the Mexicans call them, not only flicked the insects 
from the flower-cups, but spent much time humming 
through the ditches, low over the ground. We could 
not imagine their errand, as it seemed hardly possible 
that they were attracted by the grasshoppers, some of 
which had bodies laroer and heavier than their own. 
A struggle between a Rufous Hummingbird and a 
giant hopper would indeed be exciting ! What a sight 
it would be to see the wee bird perched vulture-like 
upon the huge insect and dismembering it ! 

When, by patient watching and the dissection of 
one hummingbird's stomach, we discovered the truth, 
we found it indeed to be more strangle than fiction. 
Like almost all the birds of the ditches the humming^- 
birds were really feeding chiefly upon grasshoppers. 
The sentinel Sparrow Hawks seemed to capture the 
largest insects, pulling them ajjart before swallowing. 
Those which were snatched up by the shrikes were of a 
smaller size, while the finches and lesser sparrows fed 
upon the partly grown hoppers. We were delighted to 
find that this corresponding diminution in size, correlat- 
ing the birds and their food, was even carried a step 

c^ 57 ■^ 

:::n:::s#x TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO sfe"-"" 

farther, so that the tiny hummingbirds were provided 
for. Wee harlequin grasshoppers, gaudily attired in 
black and white, yellow and red, were snapped up by 
the score and were just of a size for a mouthful for a 
chuparosa. These miniature grasshoppers Avere full 
grown and widely distributed throughout the country. 

After a moment's silence in one of the cactus-shaded 
ditches, the little inhabitants with fur and scales made 
their presence known by sudden scamperings and 
dartinos here and there. It was here we beo;an to 
learn the lesson which week after week in Mexico en- 
forced, that a rustle among the leaves, slight or vigor- 
ous, nine times out of ten was made by a lizard, the 
commotion being out of all j^i'oportion to the size of 
the reptile. 

A forty-inch Iguana could steal almost noiselessly 
through a mass of brittle leaves, while the flight of 
a diminutive "blue-tail," not more than three inches 
from head to tail-tip, would sometimes sound like a 
whole band of scratching towhees or white-throats. 
It was hard not to watch instinctively for the supposed 
bird in the near-by bush, and the minutes we spent at 
first in this fruitless way, if collected, would equal many 

Pouched rats (Geomys) were very abundant in 
the ditches, and scores of their burrows tunnelled the 
sides. We occasionally caught one in a box-trap and 
made it turn out the contents of its capacious cheeks. 

«4 58 > 

(Showing cheek pouches) 

:::::::::*; WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY B::::::::: 

It was astonishing to see the amount of seeds which 
one of these creatures could pack on each side of its 
yellow incisors. No wonder 
the weeds produced seeds 
in such quantities if the 
Pouched Rat was only one 
of many creatures which 
enjoyed the sweet meat of 
the embryo plants. These 
rats were very pugnacious 
and constantly fought 
among themselves, chasing 
one another and clinchino; 
— biting severely, if we 
judge from the sharpness of the squeaks which pro- 
ceeded from the rolling, tumbling combatants. 

Spermopliiles — prairie-dog-like, but with their 
backs decorated with white lines and dots - — surprised 
us by peeping out of the entrances of their ditch homes 
and squeaking excitedly to each other the moment we 
disappeared around a bend. When a towhee was 
startled by us and saw no means of escape, it some- 
times darted into the nearest hole, from which, if the 
inhabitant was a Spennoph'de, the bird was promptly 
ejected by the owner, — choosing the less immediate 
danger of flying out past our very faces. 

One could not take a walk on the outskirts of the 
city without noticing the miniature whirlwinds, six or 

•«4 59 -^ 

::::::;:3e TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B^":::::: 

eight often being- in sight at once. On the alkaH plains 
these reached their highest development, but here 
amons: the corn-stubble we could watch their formation 
and motion on a lesser scale. When the air about us 
was perfectly calm, a circling of dust might begin fif- 
teen or twenty feet away, which increased in strength 
and velocity until the vortex was plainly discernible. 
It usually moved steadily in one direction, but would 
sometimes make a sharp angle without warning. The 
dust and debris were now drawn up until a wavering 
brown finger extended fifty feet or more into the air. 
The summit tapered to a thread and the whole Avas 
frequently thrown into violent contortions without 
breaking the continuity. Such a column might pass 
unchanged out of sight, or it might break off at the 
base, and the mass of leaves and dust go sailing up 
through the air, until some counter-current interrupted 
the whirling, and the particles drifted to earth. Some- 
times a sparrow was surprised at his feast of weed- 
seeds and as he took to wing, his feathers were ruffled 
and his balance almost upset by the aerial maelstrom. 
There were certain birds which, like the House 
Finches, identified themselves with the city itself and, 
indeed, with almost all the larger towns and villages in 
Mexico. Not an English Sparrow seemed to have found 
its way to this fortunate country, and taking the place 
of these feathered pests was the dainty Audubon 
Warbler, which is almost identical with our well- 

4 60 ^ 

::;::::;:=*v WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY ;*::::::::: 

known Myrtle Warbler of the Eastern United States, 
except that the throat of the former is yellow instead 
of white. But ours is a bird of the woods and parks, 
while the Audubon haunts the patios and adobe walls, 
showing the utmost familiarity with men and animals. 
Every city had its corps of feathered scavengers of 
which Audubon Warbler was the least, as the Turkey 
Vulture was the greater. For the little bird had for- 
saken the trees and insects, which elsewhere are its 
natural habitat and food, and found more to its liking" 
among the tortilla and frijole crumbs, with perhaps 
a sprinkling of the spiders which so love the ill-kept 
j)atLOs of the poorer classes. Although we occasionally 
found it far from the haunts of men, yet we shall always 
associate the yellow, gray, and black of this warbler 
with the heart of the towns. 

Almost as familiar and tame were the little Inca 
Doves, scaled from head to foot and with long, tapering 
tails. These brown, bobbing forms of the dust flew up 
with a flurry of wings from beneath our feet on almost 
every pathway. They had as little fear of man as the 
chickens and pigs which disputed the right of way. 

Two species of grackles, or blackbirds, were always 
found in the parks and gardens of Mexican cities, 
at least in winter, — the small, yellow-eyed, iridescent 
Brewer Grackle, and the grandest of all his kind, the 
Great-tailed Grackle. The latter was a conspicuous 
feature of all the public j^lazas and parks, its black 

«4 61 •>> 

::::::::3t£ TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO le-""" 

form flapping slowly past, with sharp-keeled tail sjjread 
wide behind. Their voices were surprisingly musical — 
for grackles — and contrasted strongly with the harsh 
utterances of the other blackbirds and cowbirds. 

One of the sweetest of bird voices was heard about 
the adobe houses of the city every day — the drop- 
ping song of the Mexican Canyon Wren, but, as in the 
song of a caged bird, something seemed lacking, some 
quality which we knew should be in the strain, although 
we now heard it for the first time. These little dark- 
feathered bundles of tireless energy would creep like 
mice up the adobe walls, and from the top tlie white 
throats would pour forth the gushing floods of melody. 
Later, on our camping trips to the wild barrancas and 
gorges, we heard the Canyon Wren in his true home 
and his song" at its best — a dominant strain in the 
melody of Mexican Nature. The beauty of the birds' 
natural wild environment gave to them and to their 
sons; a charm which was absent in the birds of Guada- 
lajara. After our return to the city, memory always 
supplied the rocks, the ferns, the accomjjaniment of 
falling water, the — something lacking. Once, shortly 
before we said good-bye to the country of which we 
have grown so fond, when " Seiiorita " was overcome 
by the heat, a Canyon Wren flew into the open patio 
window, perched on a chair-back, and sang his little 
song with all his might — soothing pain with a flood 
of pleasant memories. 

«4 62 -^ 

:::::::::^x W.\LKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY ;*::::::::: 

I have mentioned flocks of the Cuernavaca House 
Finch as haunting- the suburban stubble-fields, and 
many of these birds were also found in the city itself. 
During one whole week a brilliant-plumaged male sang 
to us from the same tree each day as we passed on our 
early morning walk — a sweet, well-modulated, pleasing 
strain which revealed the reason for the numerous cap- 
tives in the bamboo cages hanging in so many doorways 
and j^dtios. These were, however, more rightly yellow 
than purple finches, a caged life producing this change 
in colour after the first moult, which becomes more 
pronounced with each succeeding shedding of the 
feathers. Once I saw a wild male bird singing to a 
caged female, and again a male at liberty offered a beak- 
ful of straw to a brown lady bird in a bamboo prison. 

Our most pleasant memory of these birds is of a mated 
pair in full plumage on an adobe wall, the male bring- 
ing straw after straw to his mate and piling them at 
her feet, she paying no attention for a time, absently 
preening her feathers. But before we left them she 
made two trips, carrying part of the pile to a ledge 
under the tiles where the foundation of the nest was 
already in place. The male sang almost continuously, 
even uttering a few chirps and twitters while flying 
up with a straw in his beak. 

There are few people in the western portion of our 
country who do not know the well-named Yellow- 
headed Blackbird, but for us Easterners its habitat is 

<i- 63 -^ 

:::::::::=*g TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO xfe-:--'- 

only the handbook and the museum. From the former 
we learn that it ranges south over the Mexican table- 
land, but no Yellow-head appeared to us during the 
winter, until one day in March, about six o'clock in the 
evening, we were taken wholly by surj^rise by seeing 
a male in full plumage perched upon the top spray of 
a mesquite-tree. Soon others joined him, many likewise 
golden of head and neck, and a few more sombre 
females. After this day the evening flight became a 
regular occurrence, flocks of hundreds coming from 
the open country to perch in the upper branches of the 
larger trees m plaza and jjatio. 

From where we sat in the evening, four or five trees 
bare of leaves were visible and almost at the same 
moment, at the close of each day, the birds appeared 
from somewhere and alio^hted on the bare branches. 
Never had I seen birds perch so close together as did 
these Yellow-headed Blackbirds. They formed literally 
a solid mass. When the birds were frightened, the 
several trees gave up a myriad swift forms, which some- 
times swooped past us with a great roar of wings. 
Their liquid chirps and gurgles were not unmusical, 
and when the last rays of the setting sun were reflected 
from five hundred golden breasts, all facing the same 
way, it was a most resplendent sight. When all had 
arrived, as at some preconcerted signal, every bird took 
to wing and the flocks distributed themselves in the 
neighbouring trees for the night. As we stood near 

*^ 64 -^ • 

::::::::3v WALKS IN THE CACTUS COUNTRY m::::::::: 

one of these roosts, a perfect babble of voices was 
audible above the rustling leaves and twigs. As dark- 
ness settled down the confusion grew less, the chirps 
more individual, and when the swift tropic twilight had 
passed, all was silent, save for a last subdued sleepy 
p-urale — and the world of Yellow-heads was at rest. 




I U AD ALA JAR A is surroimded by a most 
barren country, but as every desert has 
its oasis, so this charming Mexican city 
has, almost within its Hmits, a Uttle 
" watered wood " to which a lover of Nature will re- 
turn again and again. It is reached by a short ride 
on a mule-car, this alone always promising excitement. 
If the flattened rails, in the uncertainty as to whether 
they will squeeze the wheels until they shriek, or 
whether they Avill allow the car to ramble gutterward 
at will, are bewildering, the switches are positively 
uncanny in the remarkable actions which they cause a 
car to perform. Rarely the car succeeds in proceeding 
upon the track intended. Sometimes it fails altogether, 
and there ensues a bewildering mixup of six mules, 
the two cars running together as closely as the kick- 
ing animals will permit. Again, the front truck will 
obediently follow the tugs of the mules, while the rear 
wheels endeavour to side-track themselves, as a result 
swinofing- the car crosswise in the street. But no one 
ever loses temper, or hurries, so difficulties unwind in 
due season. 

<4 66 #* 

:::::::::*f OASIS AND DESERT m::; 

The most remarkable manoeuvre is a flying switch 
performed with a single mule, a diminutive car, and 
a bridge built across a sand-gully on a road leading to 
the northwest of the city. As the car approaches the 


bridge, a full gallop is attained by means of constant 
and vigorous applications of the whip, while the con- 
ductor hurls stones and Spanish epithets at the wildly 
flying mule. At the critical moment, just as the open 
ties are reached, the mule's traces, in some inexplicable 
way, are cast off, he is swerved into a path at the left 
of the road, and, well trained by long experience, 
dashes down across the gully and up on the other side, 
where he trots slowly along the track. Simultaneously 
with his frantic scramble, the car's momentum carries 

«4 67 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*::::::::: 

it across the bridge and up to the place where the 
mule is jogging along, when his traces are refastened 
and the regular gallop is resumed. As a spectacular 
2)erformance it is worthy of being instituted as a circus 
feature ! 

The way to Agua Azul, or the " Blue Water," as the 
oasis is called, is along a path shaded by two lines of 
willows, and a few minutes after leaving the city one 
alights in the midst of a garden full of old-fashioned 
flowers in blossom. A little way beyond, a stream 
broadens out into a good-sized lake dotted with little 
wooded islands. In all directions, green marsh and 
undergfrowth and luxuriant willows offer ideal condi- 
tions for bird life. Here birds of many kinds have 
congregated for untold years, and a wise governor, 
loving them as a boy and looking forward to their 
ultimate fate, had a law passed as soon as he came to 
power, forbidding all shooting and trapping in Agua 

The birds, here as everywhere in the world, instantly 
appreciating their security, haunt the spot in myriads 
and are remarkably tame. Guadalajara has no need of 
aviaries and flying cages, for here is one prepared by 
Nature. Unlike so many bird-beloved spots in our 
United States, it has not been abused by the people, 
and has not had its protective laws enacted only when 
the time has forever passed for their usefulness. 

The little public park or garden at the edge of Agua 

«4 68 #* 

::::::::ag: OASIS AND DESERT B^:::::::: 

Aznl was not large, but it was filled to overflowing 
with the best of all flowers — the old-fashioned ones. 
Poppies, petunias, marigolds, and hollyhocks flashed 
colour rank upon rank, with larkspur as homelike as 
ever grew in a New England front yard, while helio- 
tropes stretched their purple heads five feet above the 


ground, losing no sweetness nor gaining aught of 
coarseness from their luxuriant growth. 

Apple and orange trees are scattered among the 
willows, and upon a single branch we often found ripe 
fruit and fresh-blown blossoms. Through and among 

<4 69 •!» 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B::::::::: 

all the beauty dashed the Vermilion Flycatchers. No- 
where else in Mexico did we see them as tame as in 
this beautiful garden. A male in full plumage seemed 
to outburn every other scarlet object in Nature. His 
back, wings, and tail were dark gray, as if the scarlet 
had really burnt itself out in these portions. His round, 
full crest and underparts, from bill to tail, were flam- 
ing brilliant red. There were also numbers of young 
males, scarlet only to the breast, and females with 
throats and breasts of cooler, grayish hues. Their 
favourite perches were the stakes which supported the 
vines and weaker plants, and thence they dashed 
groundward for small moths and grasshoppers. No 
note was heard save when one bird was pursued by 
another; then the two streaks of crimson gave utter- 
ance to loud, shrill chirps. 

This beautiful creature must have had some talisman 
which a'liarded him from the fate which overhang-s 
brilliantly coloured birds, for he seemed to have no fear 
of showing his beauty. There was no attempt at skulk- 
ing or concealment. He selected a bare perch, with his 
breast turned toward the sun, and now and then Hashed 
out and back — a spot of brilliance which could not 
be overlooked. Althouoh we watched lonof and care- 
fully, we never saw a Vermilion Flycatcher assailed or 
threatened by shrike or hawk. Sometimes a Ground 
Squirrel rushed at one in a rage, but the bark of a 
Ground Squirrel is much worse than its bite, so this 

«4 70 -^ 

:::::::::«v: OASIS AND DESERT m::::::::: 

sham threatening meant little and the flycatcher acted 
as if he knew it. 

The sole thing from which these brilliant birds might 
have derived protection was the abundance of red 

Photographed by R. H. Beebe 


flowers and the occasional solitary scarlet leaf. From 
the railroad train we frequently mistook flower or leaf 
for bird. But after all, it is probable that his immun- 
ity from danger is due to the well-known pugnacity 
of the race of flycatchers. 

We found flycatchers abundant in species and 
numbers throughout Mexico, but none more beautiful 

«# 71 #» 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B::".-": 

or vivacious than the well-named Pyrocej)licdus. How 
we longed to see him at home, w^hen building his nest, 
but as we could not wait for him until May, we could 
only feast our eyes upon his beauty and listen for some 
hint of his love-notes. 

Enormous grackles flocked among the upper 
branches of the willows, their rich notes bubbling and 
gurgling forth in a constant stream. A low adobe 
wall, less than a foot in height, shut out the marsh 
from the garden, and, as we approached this, a Belted 
Kingfisher flew to a stake and rattled loudly, then 
dived and began his morning's fishing. Like ourselves, 
he was probably a winter sojourner from the North, 
but before we returned in April something would have 
whispered to him that the ice on his mill-pond was 
breaking up, and one moonlight night he would spring 
into the air and beat steadily toward the Rio Grande, 
heedless of fish or rest, until he reached the branch 
which, year after year, has bent beneath his weight. 
The roses and orange blossoms will then be many 
leagues to the southward, but could the bird feel as 
we, would he not feel a keener thrill at the sight of 
the first arbutus pushing up by the snow-bank, just 
as our pulses leap more quickly at the thought of the 
good old virile talk and laughter echoing through the 
keen spring air of the bird's Northern fishing-grounds 
than at the smooth, drowsy sound of the Mexican 
tongue ? One may travel to the ends of the earth and put 

«4 ''2 #*■ 

::::::::sSk OASIS AND DESERT le::::;::: 

half the globe between him and his native land, yet, 
when there comes to eye, ear, or nostril the veriest hint, 

— a scent, a sound, a glimpse of feathers blue and white, 

— the mind pours forth a Hood of memory which 
eclipses, for the moment, all nearer, stranger scenes. 

Over the marsh wall ahead of us scrambled a score 
of ivory-billed coots, splashing down among the water 
hyacinths and swimming slowly away, without the 
least sign of fear. Beyond were Blue-winged Teal, 
Pintails, and Mallard Ducks; while several Shoveller 
drakes, in their beautiful spring dress, were noisily 
sifting the mud through the lamellce of their broad bills. 


«# 73 ^ 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"""" 

Nature has given this duck an awkward, heavy-looking 
bill, which, however, serves a most useful purpose ; but 
she has more than made it up in the beauty of colouring 
of the plumage — a livery of white, black, green, chest- 
nut, and delicate blue. A quartet of Cinnamon Teal 
sprang into the air from where they had been feeding 
at our feet. This was a species of duck new to us, 
easily recognized by the bright cinnamon colour on 
head, neck, and breast. Here were three birds in sight 
marked with that pale, beautiful blue — one of the 
most delicate of Nature's hues. 

The dense mass of water hyacinths, for many yards 
around, was eaten close to the level of the water, 
testifying to the abundance of wild birds at this spot. 
The coots now reached the opposite bank, twenty feet 
away, and settled down for a nap or walked slowly 
about. Their peculiar curtailed appearance gave them 
a lifeless, wooden effect which was increased by their 
awkward gait, lifting high their great green-lobed toes. 
If one Avere to remodel a coot it would seem more rea- 
sonable to reduce the size and weight of its feet and 
add somewhat to the diminutive white bill. But Nature 
has fashioned the bird thus in order that it may safely 
tread upon the quaking marsh and pick out the small 
snails and worms from among the thread-like roots of 
the hyacinths. 

As we continued our walk along the stream, the lake 
came suddenly into view, and a beautiful sight was 

<^ 74 I* 


before us. Less than fifty yards away a company of two 
or three hundred ducks were sunning themselves, all 
crowded together on the bank. On a promontory still 
nearer was a flock of seven or eight hundred White- 


faced Glossy Ibises, many sleeping balanced on one leg, 
others preening their feathers. Two large grebes, per- 
haps the Western species, floating out near the middle 
of the lake, completed the tale of the water-birds. 

Beyond a field of alfalfa, with its dense green foliage 
shot with the blue flower-heads, was a stone wall, and 
on this two great American Ravens were busily engaged 
in feeding upon something which they held down with 
their feet. At first glance w^e thought it must be the 

«4 75 -^ 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-""" 

bodies of small birds, but we soon observed the ravens 
flving; back and forth from the stream, each time 
bringing a hyacinth plant, which they carried to the 
stone wall and carefully examined, evidently devouring 
the many small snails and worms which found shelter 
among the roots. 

The most conspicuous flycatcher of the cactus coun- 
try was the Ash-throated, a noisy bird, feeding chiefly 
on the insects attracted by the cactus blossoms, and 
when these were scarce, devouring many varieties of 
small fleshy fruits. It was very similar to our North- 
ern friend the Crested Flycatcher, but was paler yel- 
low below, and, as its common name implies, its throat 
was almost white. As the two ravens rose at our 
approach, one of these flycatchers appeared from a 
field beyond, and kingbird-like, gave a thrashing to 
first one and then the other, descending with his full 
force upon head and back and more than once sending 
fluffs of black to the ground. 

When both ravens had disappeared, the flycatcher 
returned and instantly gave his attention to a Western 
Red-tailed Hawk. Uttering his loud che-hoo ! che-hoo ! 
the brave little creature dashed at the bird of prey, 
striking blow after blow, the hawk meanwhile never 
attempting to retaliate, but making every effort to 
escape from his small tormentor. Thus early in our 
trip the Ash-throated Flycatcher established a repu- 
tation for bravery whicli it always sustained. 

«4 76 -^ 

::::::"SSe: OASIS AND DESERT as:::::::: 

We learned that early in the morning even greater 
numbers of ducks congregated here, so one day an 
early start brought us to the Blue Water before the 
mornino^ chill was out of the air. A search some dis- 
tance upstream revealed a fallen log bridge, which we 
crossed, and, hidden by the tall undergrowth, we made 
our way down to the marsh bordering the lake itself. 
Crouching among the reeds at the edge, we enjoyed 
an uninterrupted view of this paradise of water-birds. 
Hundreds of rippling wakes intersected each other as 
coots, gallinules, ducks of many species, and occasion- 
ally sandpipers, swam here and there ; the webbed 
swimmers turning tail upward and gleaning from the 
muddy bottom ; the snipes and sandpipers scurrying 
in the shallows. Out near the centre of the shallow 
lake, near the edge of a small islet, were several birds 
which we had lono- looked forward to seeing; — Black- 
necked Stilts. Perfectly unconscious of being watched, 
they were taking an early morning bath, doubling up 
their slender legs and beating the water with their 
wings, exactly as flamingoes bathe. When thoroughly 
wet they flew one after another to a mud-bank, shook 
the water from their plumage in a shower of dro2)s, and 
arranged every feather in place, standing in a row 
facing the rising sun. 

Ducks whistled close over our heads, arriving in 
small flocks and settling upon the water with a slither 
which raised a multitude of ripples. And now a louder 

«4 77 ^ 

:::::::::C TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B::::"": 

wino--beat drew our eyes upward and a dozen cormo- 
rants — the Mexican species doubtless — shot past. 
Herons began to arrive — Great Bhies, which sailed 
gracefully to the open water and alighted, becoming 
stiff and narrow, shapeless things until, assured that 
all was safe, they picked their way slowly about. Little 
Green Herons came close to us, creeping like shadows 
among the reeds, and snatching at the big flies which 
buzzed about. 

Seven beautiful American Egrets trailed one after 
the other to the willows on the island and alighted, but 
they did not descend to the Avater during our visit. 

<4 78 ^ 

:;:::;::3E OASIS AND DESERT ?fe;::::::: 

They called up a host of pleasant memories ; for we 
last saw these rare birds a year ago when the sun was 
settinof across the waters of the Indian River in Florida. 
It was difficult to realize that even here, far south of 
the Tropic of Cancer, we were yet at only the very 
northern part of the egrets' range. Their white forms 
are found from here to the lagoons of Patagonia. 
They ask nothing from man, save leave to feed upon 
the fish and snails of the swamps, and they offer their 
beauty of form and feather to make a beautiful land 
still more beautiful. Hitherto man's love of gold and 
woman's vanity have overbalanced all humane and 
aesthetic sentiments. May some good fortune protect 
the carets in the wild fastnesses of the southern con- 
tinent, so that our country may, little by little, be 
restocked with these beautiful creatures ! 

The smaller sandpipers were legion in number, run- 
ning back and forth along the edge of the water. The 
greatest surprise which the Blue Water had to offer 
came when we were about to rise from our cramped 
positions. Without warning, five birds appeared from 
among the thick reeds at our left and walked quickly, 
with mincing steps, to the water's edge, where they 
ming-led unnoticed with the lesser waders. We knew 
them at once for jacanas. This quintet of birds at once 
absorbed our attention. We had read that the colours 
of the plumage of the Mexican Jacana were mostly 
black and a rich, dark chestnut ; but from observing 

«4 79 #* 


these birds we should not have known it, so change- 
able were their feathers under the rays of the early 
morning- sun. All that was lacking was for them to 
perform their wing-dance, such as Hudson describes 
in the case of a South American species. This was 
denied us, but they had a way of raising first one wing 
and then the other straight up, showing plainly the 
horny spur at the bend of the wing. This action was 
as graceful as it was inexplicable. The long thin toes 
and claws showed how easily they could pick their way 
over the floating lily-pads. The conspicuous shield of 
orange skin spread out upon the forehead was another 
bizarre touch in the appearance of these strange birds. 
When at last they sprang into the air for a short flight, 
each wing gave forth flash after flash of rich yellow ; 
and by this characteristic we were always able to detect 
the presence of this species, even among a hundred 
other birds. 

The roar of wing's was like a hio-h wind as we raised 
our heads above the surrounding reeds. Scores of birds, 
whose proximity we had never suspected, hurled them- 
selves into water and air. The lake was churned into 
a foam as the hundreds of webbed feet thrashed its 
surface, and a sweet, shrill chorus of peets ! sweets ! 
arose from the cloud of shore-birds. The yellow wing- 
quills of the jacanas glistened in the sunlight as they 
wheeled outward ; the wing speculums of the ducks 
flashed like mirrors. Yet with all the uproar and 

«4. 80 h 

::::::::3e OASIS AND DESERT aK:::::::: 

startled flight, the alarm was very different from that 
of Northern birds fleeing from the man with a gun. In 
a few minutes, with the exception of a clear area in 
our vicinity, all were feeding as before. 

We missed the Glossy Ibises of our first visit, but 
before we left they arose from their roost desertwards, 
coming in a great flock high in air. It is impossible 
to describe the beauty of their flight. The wings 
and general appearance of a tern, gull, or swallow 
gives us a hint that we may expect something excep- 
tionally fine from them when they launch themselves 
upon the air, but these curved-billed, long-legged birds 
suggest ability to wade and run, rather than to ma- 
noeuvre on the wing. However, as when one sees Wood 
Ibises soaring, the flight of a flock of Glossy Ibises 
changes one's whole estimate of the abilities of the 

As one bird, the flock turns and dips and swoops 
toward the surface of the pond, rushing so close to 
its surface that the Great Blue Herons dodge. Then 
up they swerve again, and the sunlight is reflected at 
exactly the same instant from every iridescent wing. 
As they veer sharply in front of us, the full spread 
of every individual bird's back and wings is turned 
toward us ; then, almost between winks, the Spirit of 
the flock has brought the profile of each ibis in sharp 
silhouette against the sky, — half a hundred birds 
which seem like one with nine and forty shadows. 

«4 81 -^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B:"""" 

I would give much to solve this mystery, shared by 
schools of fish and swarms of insects. Perhaps the 
closest we may approximate to this unity of many is 
when the rhythm of a waltz sways two dancers as one, 
or when improvising on stringed instruments with 
a person with whom one is in perfect sympathy, the 
sequence of harmony comes simultaneously to each. 
But the birds have no rhythm to aid them ; the same 
ground is never gone twice over. 

And now there comes, as if from the very heart of 
the sun, a second flock equal in numbers to the first, 
and the two vibrate back and forth over the lake. Once 
the Spirit of the flock — as it pleases me to call this 
sympathy of movement — appears undecided, as the 
birds hesitate a moment over a bit of marsh. A half 
dozen alight for an instant, but the time is not yet, 
and quickly they leap into the air again and seem 
almost to snap into their places. Finally, both flocks 
sweep in a horizontal plane over the marsh, bring up 
with a sudden short curve, and two hundred wings are 
folded and a hundred birds begin busily probing the 
hyacinths and muddy shallows ; the compelling power 
has dissolved into entities, each perfect and individual, 
— the Spirit of the flock is no more. 

The unwatered country about Guadalajara fulfilled 
our idea of a desert, but when we saw a real alkali 
waste, we agreed that the former region in no wise 

«4 82 ^ 

^-gm^ M Hi 

I- -.r- 




Scott, photographer 


::::::::3E OASIS AND DESERT m 

deserved the opprobrium. Long before the actual rains 
begin, vegetation seems to feel a quickening in the air ; 
the plants scent the coming moisture weeks before- 
hand and spring to life, — except on the alkali plain. 
The very last glimpse we had of it showed no sign of 
spring, no hint of green or of returning life, no resur- 
rection of flowers or even of blades of grass. 

At night the moon looked down upon a desolate arid 
plain stretching away to the mountains on the horizon. 
The air was chill and a bleak wind searched out every 
fold in our blankets ; we might almost have been 
spending a night on the Arctic tundras. Absolute 
silence reigned ; neither coyote nor bird of the night 
broke the awful hush. If one was wakeful, it was a 
relief at times to grind one's heels into the pumice, 
or to speak — any sound making a welcome break 
in the everlasting silence of the desert's sleep. With 
scarce a moment of dawn, the sun flooded everything, 
a grateful warmth for a while, but soon to make us 
gasp in its breathless heat. 

Where a thin, blasted rind of red-brown grass-stems 
partly covered the white dust, parched mesquite bushes 
found root, and strange, uncouth organ cacti reared 
their columns, like mammoth candelabra. Here wild- 
eyed cattle roamed uneasily, nibbling occasionally at 
the bitter grasses. 

Farther out in the desert, where even the mesquite 
and cacti failed, we rode slowly across the parched sur- 

<i- 85 -^ 

:::::::::*? TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B""""" 

face, wondering if a single living thing could endure 
the bitterness of the earth and air. In the distance 
moved the whirlwinds of dust, tall, thin columns with 
perfectly distinct outlines, undulating slowly here and 
there — both life and death in their silent movement. 
A distant vaqiiero is the focus of a great cloud of white 
dust raised by his horse's hoofs. Pools of dark water 
with white, crystalled edges now appeared, the liquid 
seeming little different from the solid plain. 

Most remarkable it seemed to us when a Great Blue 
Heron now and then flew silently up from the desert 
and flapped slowly out of sight. What could possibly 
attract these birds to such a place of death as this — 
distant even from the bitter pools ? Twice a great ebony 
raven sailed croaking through the dusty air over our 
heads — the same bird repassing. No other life was 
visible save the balanced black specks against the blue, 
as invariably a part of the Mexican day as the stars are 
of the night. Herons, vvdtures, and raven all moved 
slowly, seeming less alive than the distant columns of 

But we felt the real Spirit of the eternal desert when, 
as we turned to retrace our steps, we spied a something 
white, a something different from the surrounding 
earth, and the spell of past ages fell upon us. The 
bitter water was ever drying up, the whirlwinds carried 
the dust from place to place, the birds came and went 
as they pleased, but this relic of an elephant of the 

«^ 86 ^ 

:::::;::3e OASIS AND DESERT as:::::::: 

olden time brought past and present into close touch. 
What scenes has the desert looked upon since this Im- 
perial Mammoth staggered dying into the quagmire 
which proved its tomb ? The dust caused our eyes and 
throat to smart, and we reluctantly turned our ponies' 
heads on the back trail, much as we should have liked 
to stay and search out the secrets of these fossils, — 


«4 87 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-"."" 

more fascinating, in their way, than the living beasts 
and birds which peopled the tropics beyond. For sev- 
eral months in the year a portion of this desert is buried 
under at least two feet of water. At the beoinnin<r of 
the dry season, when this evaporates, the barren wastes 
yield their only crop, — a rich harvest of fossils. Great 
curved ribs, mighty thigh-bones, and large, deeply 
furrowed teeth are washed to the surface — a stony 
harvest of ivory and enamel, relics of herds of Impe- 
rial Mammoths {J^lej^has im^jerator), which roamed 
the earth when man was first beginning to know his 

One of the most wonderful exhibitions of bird-life in 
Mexico came to us as we left the alkali plain and rode 
among the mesquite scrub. A confused mass of black 
appeared in the air which, as we advanced, resolved 
itself into hundreds of individual specks. The atmos- 
phere was so deceptive that what, at first, appeared to 
be a vast cloud of gnats close at hand was soon seen 
to be a multitude of birds, blackbirds perhaps, until we 
approached and thought them ravens, and finally, when 
a quarter of a mile away, we knew that they were vul- 
tures. Three burros lay dead upon the plain, — this we 
knew yesterday, — and here were the scavengers. Never 
had we seen vultures more numerous or in more orderly 
array. A careful scrutiny through our glasses showed 
many scores of Black and Turkey Buzzards walking 
about and feeding upon the carcasses of the animals, 

<4 88 #» 

:::::":SE OASIS AND DESERT jp:::::::: 

and from this point there extended upward into the air 
a vast inverted cone of birds, all circling in the same 
direction. From where Ave sat upon our horses there 
seemed not a single one out of place, the outline of the 
cone Avas as smooth and distinct as though the birds 
were limited in their flight to this particular area. It 
Avas a rare sight, the sun lighting up every bird on the 
farther side and shadoAving black as night those nearest 
us. Through one's partly closed eyes the Avhole mass 
appeared composed of a myriad of sloAvdy revolving* 
wheels, intersecting, crossing each other's orbits, but 
never breaking their circular outline. The thousands 
of soaring forms held us spellbound for minutes be- 
fore Ave rode closer. 

Now a change took place, as gradual but as sure as 
the shifting clouds of a sunset. Until this moment there 
was a tendency to concentrate at the base of the cone, 
that portion becoming more and more black until it 
seemed a solid mass of rapidly revolving forms. But at 
our nearer approach this concentration ceased, and there 
Avas perfect equilibrium for a time ; then, as Ave rode 
up a gentle slope into clearer view, a Avonderf ul ascent 
began. SloAvly the oblique spirals swing upAvard. The 
gigantic cone, still perfect in shape, lifts clear of the 
ground and drifts aAvay, the summit rises in a curve 
which, little by little, frays out into ragged lines, all 
drifting in the same direction, and before our eyes the 
thousands of birds merge into a shapeless, undulating 

<^ 89 ^ 

:::::::::*: TWO bird -lovers IN Mexico B::::-.:::: 

cloud, which rises and rises, spreading out more and 
more, until the eye can no longer distinguish the birds 
which, from vultures, dwindle to motes, floating and 
lost among the clouds. 




HEN our excursions began to take in a 
wider field, leaving behind the corn- 
stubble and ditches and even the semi- 
desert wastes beyond, we found ourselves 
in a trackless wilderness of mesquite and cactus. Wher- 
ever one stood he seemed surrounded with an open 
growth of the dry and dusty trees just too high to see 
over. A few steps farther they appeared less in height. 
When these were reached, the same monotonous 
glimpses of more mesquite, moi-e gnarly cactus, was all 
that was seen, and for mile upon mile one was alter- 
nately stimulated with the hope of a more extensive 
view and disappointed by the result. No low vegetation 
covered the white earth, no water was to be found for 
leagues around, yet at times the spiny, dry-leafed trees 
swarmed with birds, all — with one exception — garbed 
in gray or earthy hues, in perfect tone with their sur- 

The exception — the Vermilion Flycatchers — more 
than made up for the sombre colours of the other birds. 
In such a place, in middle March, dozens of the color- 
aditos, — little red ones, — as the Mexicans call them, 

«4 91 ^ 


might be seen carrying- on their courtship with enthu- 
siasm, heedless of the blinding heat. Half-hidden on 
a spray of thorn-bush perched a shy coloradita, her 
dull striped breast and darker back merging softly into 
the gray environment. But ardent admirers had found 
her out, and one after the other tried their utmost 
to outdo each other in the little performance which 
Mother Nature had taught them. All thought of pur- 
suing the gnats and gray-winged flies which swarmed 
about the cactus blossoms was gone, and, quivering with 
eagerness, the brilliant little fellows put their whole 
heart into their aerial dance. 

Up shoots one from a mesquite tree, with full, rounded 
crest, and breast puffed out until it seems a floating 
ball of vermilion — buoyed up on vibrating wings. 
Slowly, by successive upward throbs, the bird ascends, 
at each point of vibrating rest uttering his little love 
song, — a cheerful clilnfj-tlnk-a-Ie-tlnk ! ching-thik-a- 
le-tuik ! which is the utmost he can do. When at the 
limit of his flight, fifty or seventy-five feet above our 
heads, he redoubles his efforts, and the ching and the 
tinks rapidly succeed each other. Suddenly, his little 
strength exhausted, the suitor drops to earth almost 
vertically in a series of downward swoops, and alights 
near the wee gray form for which he at present exists. 
He watches eagerly for some sign of favour, but a rival 
is already climbing skyward, whose feathers seem no 
brighter than his, whose simple lay of love is no more 

-4 92 ^ 

:::::::::=*x THE MESQUITE WILDERNESS ;*:;::::::: 

eager, no more tender, yet some subtle fate, with work- 
ings too line for our senses, decides against the first 
suitor, and, before the second bird has regained his 
perch, the female flies low over the cactus-pads, fol- 
lowed by the breathless performer. 

Even after the choice was made and the two birds 
remained perched close together, the male occasionally 
performed his singing flight, his mate sometimes 
watching him, sometimes coquettishly ignoring his 
efforts and continuing her short darts after flying 
insects. Several times we noticed mated Vermilion 
Flycatchers in company with one or two young birds 
of last year. These were doubtless families which had 
remained united all this time. 

To a person unfamiliar with the birds of Mexico 
and the Western United States, the mesquites were full 
of surprises. Occasionally a brownish gray form darted 
across our path, and, folding its wings, continued its 
course upon the ground with swift, running hops, 
dartinof behind each bush and clod of earth. A 
moment's watching, and its curiosity forcing its head 
into view, we noticed the most striking character of 
the Curve-billed Thrasher. Whether we call him 
brownish gray or grayish brown, his plumage is so 
uniformly characterless in tone that it seems to change 
with the position of the bird. When on the ground 
the tone seems grayish white ; when among the mesquite 
the hue darkens and fits in with the dull stems and 

«4 93 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-""" 

thorns. A true native of the mesquite wilderness this, 
sharing- his thorny home with a few Western Mockers 
and a great many White-rumped Shrikes. Indeed the 
latter had the upper hand here, far outnumbering the 
scattering of Sparrow Hawks, the reverse of the case 
near the cities and railroads. 

A strange little trilling song once drew our stejjs 
toward a mesquite in which several tiny birds were 
hopping and singing. Their little bodies were clad in 
dull gray, Avith a black band crossing through the eyes 
and sides of the head. In their actions and appearance 
were shadowed the gnatcatcher, kinglet, and chick- 
adee, but they were none of these. Bush tits we must 
call them — these happening to be the Lloyd. We 
were able to make certain of this when we examined 
one which was killed and then dropped by a shrike. 
Their generic name bears out one of our first thoughts, 
for it is Psaltriparus, — hopping chickadee, we may 
translate it. They were trustful little creatures and 
passed close to us, trilling and searching the yellow 
pollen of the blossoms among the thorns. 

Another bird, or flock of birds, observed the same 
day, which hesitatingly whispered the beginning of a 
little song, giving promise of a more elaborate strain 
later in the year, was the Brewer Sparrow, one of the 
most streaked of finches, at least on its upper parts. 

We know that the wrens and thrashers are closely 
related to each other structurally, and in the North we 

«4 94 -^ 

:;:::::::*; THE MESQUITE WILDERNESS ;*::::;:::: 

had often compared the House Wren with the Brown 
Thrasher, and wondered if Nature could possibly sup- 
ply a missing link between birds so unlike. Now, a 
single missing link is a decidedly unscientific thing to 
wish for, since, if we could trace them back through 
the aces, the interoradations between two dissimilar 
creatures would doubtless be very minute, and con- 
sequently distributed through many thousands of 
individuals and generations. But Nature, out of her 
great abundance, often grants our desires when we 
least expect it, and here in the mesquite wilderness 
our missing link appeared to us. Cactus Wren the 
books call him, but we might with more aptness term 
him Thrasher-wren, following the precedent of Wren- 
tit and Quail-dove, for in appearance, if in nothing" 
else, the bird divides the characteristics of thrasher 
and wren. The whitish under parts of these giant 
wrens are most conspicuously spotted with black, but 
their backs are more in harmony with their surround- 
ings. A harsh chirr ! chirr ! is their only utterance, 
apparently an alarm note, for at times as we passed 
along, the mesquite fairly hummed with the sound, 
surrounding and accompanying us. 

Even a mesquite wilderness has a boundary, and 
ours thins out at the edge of the great harranca or 
gorge, which slopes downward more than a thousand 
feet to the silver thread at the bottom, — the begin- 
ninof of the Rio Grande de Santiaofo. It is here a 

«4 95 •&«. 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO m:^^ 

stream not more than fifty feet in width and fretted 
with the larger bouklers of its bed. If we could follow 
its course, we should find it gathering to itself springs 
and small streams, swelling in volume until it over- 
rides the rocks in its way, flowing swiftly and smoothly, 
ever descending, until the corn-stubble is left behind, 
over-ripe coffee-berries stain its waters, and low-bend- 
ing banana leaves are rent and frayed by the touch 
of its power. From the ujjlands through temperate to 
tropical scenes it flows, until, after its waters have been 
shadowed for many miles by the great primeval forests 
of Tepic, it reaches and merges with the Pacific. 

Along the brow of the harranca where we had come 
out upon it, the mesquite and cactus still held their 
own, but were overshadowed by a much larger growth, 
— the leafless tree morning-glories, clothed in a blaze 
of white convolvulus blossoms. Swarms of January 
insects filled the air with their humming; and attracted 
many birds. It was here that we first met with two 
species of hummingbirds with which we were later to 
become very familiar. One, the Broad-billed Hum- 
mingbird, was wholly iridescent green, save for the 
throat and tail, Avhich were blue. The Blue-crowned 
Hummingbird was, like the Broad-billed, a rather 
large S2)ecies, and very conspicuous as it swung back 
and forth among the blossoms. Its cap of intense blue 
contrasted strongly with its pure white under parts 
and brownish green back. Although the effort was 

«4 96 -^ 

:::::::::*: THE MESQUITE WILDERNESS m-:::: 

like trying to number so many flashes of sunlight, we 
counted, around one tree, at least thirty of this sjiecies. 
Strange to say, there was little or no fighting among 
themselves, but when a big blundering bee or wasp 
approached, a half-dozen hummers would rush head- 
long at the intruder and hustle it off. 

Among these flowering trees, a small stream wound 
its way for a long distance before reaching the brink 
of the great gorge, and its edges blossomed in beau- 
tiful contrast to the arid bare earth a little beyond 
on each side ; solid banks of ladies' paint-brush, soft 
and white-topped ; lantanas straggling along the rim 
of the dust ; and, closer to the water, dahlias and petu- 
nias — all Avild — were budding in profusion, promis- 
ing soon a great glory of flowers. 

Among this low growth a small gathering of Mexican 
Goldfinches searched for last year's seeds, which no 
winter snows had buried nor ice encased. The sides and 
top of the heads and the backs of these little strangers 
were solid black, the wings and tail were strikingly 
marked with white, and all the rest of the plumage was 
golden yellow. Unlike our goldfinch of the Northeast, 
this Mexican scorns to assume the dull gnarb of his 
spouse during the winter months, and we could hardly 
blame him when we saw the orange, blue, scarlet, and 
yellow blossoms among which he spends this season 
of rest from nest-building and domestic cares. 

The few butterflies surprised us by their resem- 

<4' 99 ^ -• 


blance to those with which we were faiiiiUar in field 
and meadow at home. Arch'q^i^us was surely here, and 
our identical Vanessa antiopa. What a world of differ- 
ence one's personal point of view makes ! A Mexican 
in New York State would exclaim with wonder that the 
mariposas of Mexico had strayed to so distant a land. 

The Pileolated Warbler and the Western Gnat- 
catcher were two small friends which we first met at 
the edge of the barranca. They were cheerful little 
bodies, forever busy searching leaves and twigs and 
flowers for tiny insects. Perhaps to this unflagging 
activity was due the fact that they seemed able to find 
a substantial living in all sorts and conditions of places. 
The Pileolated Warbler — so like our Wilson Black- 
cap, but of a brighter yellow — never became com- 
mon, and yet in every list of birds we made, whether 
of upland, marsh, cactus desert, barranca, or tropical 
jungle, he was sure to have a place. He was not par- 
ticular as to his winter home, but found everywhere 
enough to keep his black-crowned little head busy 
picking and picking, interpolating a sharp ch'q) ! now 
and then, between mouthfuls. 

But his co-sojourner, the Western Gnatcatcher, four 
inches or so of bluish gray and wdiite energy, was 
many times more numerous, and, if possible, even more 
cosmopolitan. The characteristic tyang ! tyang ! ysss! 
which they first twanged for us in the mesquite, found 
an echo wherever we rode or camped, from tableland 

*4 100 #* ■ 

:::"::::m THE MESQUITE WILDERNESS ;*::::::::: 

to ocean. The tail was the most prominent feature 
of this little personality, black, bordered with white, 
very long- in proportion to its body, and forever flirted 
from side to side. The gnatcatchers stood between 
the hummingbirds and the larger feathered kindred 
in the matter of fearlessness, and while never showing 
the almost insect-like lack of fear of the cJaqjarosas, 
yet they were often willing to trust themselves within 
two or three feet of our tents and persons. 

We found numbers of last year's nests of the 
Sinaloa Wren, the owners of which were about, but 
very wary and shy. The nests were well-made struc- 
tures of tAvigs and fine grass, globular in shape, with a 
small round opening in one side. They were conspicu- 
ous, but safely lodged among the impenetrable thorny 
acacias. Although these nests were so elaborately 
roofed over, the wasps' nests which we found were 
entirely open, often consisting solely of a single layer 
of comb built out horizontally from a twig. One such 
comb had been constructed within six inches of the 
entrance to the nest of a wren. 

A tiny bit of broken shell matted into the bottom 
of one of these nests Avas the only zoological find 
which marked our winter's trip. 

It was at the very edge of this little nameless 
stream that we came upon a strange sight — a drowned 
Burrowing Owl at the mouth of its tunnel. What per- 
version of instinct or faulty experience ever led it to 

«4 101 ^ 

:::::::::^v two BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO m=:^ 

scratch out its burrow so close to the water, and espe- 
cially on the lower side ? Perhaps while still at work 
the rush of water through the walls overwhelmed the 
little tunneller, certainly but a few minutes before we 
discovered it, as its body was still warm, and no vulture 
had yet spied it. Strange coincidence of two unusual 
tragedies to befall creatures of the wild — a Lincoln 


«4 102 #* 

:::::::::C THE MESQUITE WILDERNESS m::::::::: 

Sparrow not ten feet away lay ruffled and torn in the 
centre o£ a tiny thorn weed, where it had in some way 
become entangled, and its succeeding struggles only 
bound it the tighter. The vanguard of the million ants 
which soon would overrun the little ball of bedraggled 
feathers was already on the scene with antennae playing 
eagerly, while a few couriers were speeding nestward 
at topmost speed to spread the news. 

As we approached the little gorge which the falling 
stream had carved for itself down the side of the great 
harranca, several Wilson Snipe sprang up, with a harsh 
note, from the dense undergrowth of watercress, and 
zigzagged out of sight. They had been feeding on the 
small snails and worms in the brook-bed. If their fare 
was as toothsome and tender as we found the cress, 
their hesitation in taking to wing was not without 
reason. The water-loving plants were here as large as 
lettuce and yet most delicate. 

It was late afternoon as we seated ourselves on the 
brow of the great chasm and watched the shadow creep 
slowly up toward us, first darkening the semi-tropical 
underofrowth near the bottom. Slowlv but surely it 
came, dulling the boulders and flowing like a phan- 
tom tide of darkness along the ancient lines of beaches 
which for age upon age have watched the silver stream 
at the bottom cutting its way ever deeper, leaving 
their wave-worn nakedness ever farther upward. 

Suddenly over our heads and on each side poured 

<4 103 #* 

:::::::::^v TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO aje:::::::: 

a living stream of birds, — Mourning Doves, — perhaps 
already restless with the first hints of the drawing 
northward, or this might have been their regular even- 
ing gathering. They came by dozens and scores from 
far and near in the mesquite, stopping a moment to 
dip their bills, dove-fashion, deej) in the clear waters 
of the brook, and drinking long and thirstily, then 
hurlinir themselves over the barranca wall to some 
roosting-place, far below the surface of the tableland. 
And now as the sun's disk silhouettes the upraised 
arms of an organ cactus on the opposite summit, scat- 
tered squads of another army of birds appear and focus 
to their nightly rendezvous — the White-necked Ravens 
of the whole world seem to be passing, so great are 
their numbers. As far as the eye can see, each side of 
the canyon gives up its complement of black forms ; 
one straggling ahead uttering now and then a deep, 
hoarse-voiced croak. From all the neighbouring coun- 
try they pour in, passing low before us, one and all 
disappearing in the black depths of a narrow, boul- 
der-framed gorge. A raven comes circling down from 
above and instantly draws our eye to v.'hat we have 
not noticed before, a vast black cloud of the birds soar- 
ing above the barranca with all the grace of flight of 
vultures. The cloud descends, draws in upon itself, 
and, becoming funnel-shaped, sifts slowly through the 
twilioht into the "orcre where the great brotherhood 
of ravens is united and at rest. 

«4 104 ^ 

:::::::::*; THE MESQUITE WILDERNESS B:"".":: 

When the first whispers of the night-sounds rise 
from the heart of the hai'ranca there is nothins" to hint 
of the thousands of sleeping feathered forms which 
have intrusted themselves to the shelter of the mighty 
dej^ths of Mother Earth. 




'UR visit to the oasis of Agua Azid was 
one of many delights, but when the mar- 
vel of the bird-life of Lake Chapala and 
its marshes revealed itself to us, the feel- 
ings we experienced cannot be put into words ; such 
one feels at a first glance through a great telescope, or 
perhaps when one gazes in wonder upon the distant 
earth from a balloon. At these times, one is for an 
instant outside of his petty personality and a part of, 
a realizer of, the cosmos. Here on these waters and 
marshes we saw, not individuals or flocks, but a world 
of birds ! Never before had a realization of the untold 
solid bulk in numbers of the birds of our continent 
been impressed so vividly upon us. And the marvel of 
it all was the more impressive because of its unexpect- 

A hot, breathless day found our little cavalcade 
passing the picturesque old cathedral of La Barca, our 
horses' hoofs stirring up a cloud of the omnipresent 
adobe dust. A New England housewife who spends 
her life in banishing dust from her home could exist 
in the houses of Mexicans only in a state of insanity. 

o^ 106 #* 


















The unfinished adobe walls being nothing but dust in 
a slightly hardened state, the least touch inside or out 
removes a film of the earth powder. 

We were surprised to see numerous Barn and White- 
bellied Swallows about the streets, and our first thought 
was, when will these old friends of ours start on their 
northw^ard journey ? A natural inquiry, but one which 
we occasionally discovered was wholly unwarranted. 
For instance, I watched a Barn Swallow swoop across 
our path, and idly wondered where the summer would 
find him. I was answered, albeit rather taken aback, 

«4 107 ^ 

:::::::::C TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO Ife:."::::" 

by observing that his migration, at least, was ended 
about five feet farther to the north, where he alio^hted 
on a ledge of an adobe building and busied himself 

Scott, photographer 


with a mass of straws, feathers, and mud, — the founda- 
tion of his nest ! 

It is hard to realize that this country, so distant, so 
strange, shares a bird so typical of our Northern fields 
as the Barn Swallow. When we find the birds at home 
among the adobe buildings, something is changed in 
our feeling toward these little feathered creatures, — 
they seem less like personal friends ; we realize that, 
after all, the familiar nest in the hay-loft may be 

< 108 ^ 

::::::::s>e THE MARSHES OF CHAPALA aS"""" 

duplicated in the streets of some tropical city. We 
crossed a stream by a rickety wooden bridge, and 
learned that its waters were the same as those flow- 
ino- at the bottom of the barranca, crossino- the mes- 
quite wilderness. Here we were near the source of the 
Rio Santiago, where it flows from Lake Chapala. At 
one side was moored the little stern-wheeler which 
every other day carries a few passengers down to the 
lake and through its entire length of fifty miles to the 
several hotels at the w^estern end. 

Along the muddy shallows of the lake can be found 
numbers of quaint relics of a by-gone race of people. 
Strange dishes and three-legged bowls, sinkers and 
buttons, charms and amulets, objects of unknown use, 
and now and then little smiling idols of stone, whose 
cheerful expression, perhaps, gave hope to earnest 
worshippers hundreds of years before the first Span- 
ish priest placed foot upon the shores of the New 

One should spend a month upon the waters of the 
little river and the mighty lake, learning the secrets 
of the wild life. What things the giant catfish could 
reveal, feeling their way among the reed and lily 
stems ! At the great marsh, w^liere the stream flows 
from the lake, many ebony rattlesnakes lived a semi- 
aquatic life, slipping, when disturbed, from the damp 
mounds, and undulating through the black water, like 
the moccasins in a Florida cypress swamp. 

«4 109 ^ 

:::::::::*^ TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO xfe-"""-: 

From their sinewy folds of death to the beauty and 
grace of a snow-white egret is, indeed, an extreme ; 
but here snake and bird lived in close association, — 
finding in the same swamp rest, shelter, and food. 
We in the North have neglected the egrets until 
well-nigh the last survivor has been murdered ; but 
here in this wild place, where, outside of the towns, 
a man's best law and safeguard is in his holster, these 
birds have already found champions. Short tolerance 
had the first plume-hunter — an American — who 
began his nefarious work in the Chapala marshes. The 
rough but beauty-loving cdballei^os who owned the 
haciendas surrounding the lake talked it over, formed 
— to all intents and purposes — an Audubon Society, 
ran the millinery agent off, and forbade the shooting 
of these birds. There was no fine or imprisonment for 
shooting egrets, — only a widespread verbal " revolver 
law," more significant and potent than many of our 
inscribed legislative enactments. 

Loons and grebes delighted in the swampy end of 
the lake — the former shrieking and diving' in the 
joyous abandon of their wild, unhunted lives. The 
great Western Grebe was especially interesting, — an- 
other species which must fight for very existence 
in its Northern haunts, its silky breast having found 
fatal favour in the eyes of milliners. 

Hundreds of White Pelicans are said to make their 
winter home here, breeding far to the northward ; but 

^ 110 ^ 

::::::::3E THE MARSHES OF CHAPALA :p;::::::: 

a distant glimpse of a few of the great birds is all that 
may be hoped for in a flying visit. 

To-day our horses were headed for the flooded 
marshes east of the lake, and, leaving the stream with 
its green borders, we rode on through the chaparral 
thickets. Brown Towhees and Curve-billed Thrashers 
springing up at every step. Beyond a distant line of 
willows, our guide promised us " muchos j^^j^^i^'os de 
agua,'' but there was no hint of changing conditions 
until we left La Barca far behind. 

Few hunters thought of looking for sport elsewhere 
than on the waters of the lake itself, and so we were 
not surprised to find the birds tame and unconcerned at 
our presence. Little streams appeared, with coots and 
handsome little Scaup Ducks floating on their quiet 
surface, and sandpipers teetering along the muddy 
banks. At last we leaped two ditches, the guide lead- 
ing the way through an opening in the willow tangle, 
and we found ourselves at the edge of the marshes, 
a vast plain, half dry, half flooded, broken here and 
there by patches of tall reeds, a great land expanse 
stretching mile upon mile to the lake toward the south- 
west and to the barren mountains rising hazy and blue 
in the east. 

At another time and place we have seen thousands 
of pelicans close together on a tiny islet ; again, ducks 
have surrounded us in such masses that we seemed 
floating in a sea of birds ; but all our remembrances 

«4 113 ^ 

:::::::::^x TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B::::::::: 

paled before the avifauna of the Chapala marshes. 
Migration had already begun, and we were told that 
vast numbers of Pintails and Widgeons had left for 
the North, but untold thousands of birds were before 
us. As far as the eye could see, living feathered forms 
were scattered irregularly or massed in dense flocks. 
Our guide could not understand why we did not wish 
to shoot, but only to look, and look again, wishing 
we could draw out the seconds to minutes, the min- 
utes to hours, in which to feast our eyes upon the 
wonderfully beautiful sight. Leaning low down on 
our horses' necks and flattening; ourselves as close to 
the animals' sides as possible, we advanced at a slow 
walk, now and then allowing them to take a mouth- 
ful of grass. In this way we were able to approach 
closely, even among the flocks, without alarming the 

The air was fllled with a multitude of sweet notes, — 
half strange, half familiar, — and the sight of scores 
of brilliant yellow breasts, crescent marked, turned 
toward us, told us that it was a hint of Avell-known 
Meadowlark music which puzzled our memory. But 
this melody was very unlike the sharp, steel tones 
which ring- so true across the frost-ffemmed fields of 
our Northland in early spring. The larks looked very 
little different from our Northern birds ; their backs 
perhaps darker and their breasts of a warmer, more 
orange yellow. This genial, tropical air has thawed 

«4 114 ^ 

::::::::3e THE MARSHES OF CHAPALA m""::" 

their voices and softened their tones, and the sweetest 
of choruses came from the throats of these Mexican 
Meadowlarks. We passed hundreds upon hundreds of 
blackbirds, evenly divided between golden-headed 


beauties and others whose trim ebony forms were 
richly marked with scarlet and white shoulders — the 
Bieoloured Blackbirds. Their clucks were continu- 
ous, as they walked and hopped about, searching and 

•»4 115 #* 

:::::::::^s TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B"".-:: 

finding. The half-sodden meadows must indeed have 
been a Hmitless storehouse for insects and seeds, 
since they afforded food for so great a number of 

So absorbed was I in watching the various species, 
that I forgot the exigencies of my unusual position 
on the horse and, losing my hold, I dropped ignomin- 
iously into a jDuddle. A roar of wdngs sounded in 
my ears as I gained my feet, and a swift look around 
showed a myriad of forms in hurried flight — all 
blackbirds however ; not a Meadowlark, had flown, but 
like magic, at the first suspicion of danger, every yel- 
low breast had disappeared. The glass revealed skulk- 
ing gray and mottled forms stalking stealthily among 
the reeds, but the naked eye refused to distinguish 
them from the vegetation. No glint of yellow betrayed 
them ; in the flash of an eye a hundred brilliant-hued, 
vocal creatures within a few square yards of us had 
turned about and — vanished, many times safer than 
the fleeing blackbirds, a shot among which would have 
slain half a hundred. But from us all were safe, and 
after I resumed my Mexican stalking position and rode 
on, the alarm ceased almost immediately. The flocks 
of Yellowheads and Red-wings settled many ranks 
deep among the reeds, and one by one, like the stars 
in early evening, the breasts of the reassured larks 
flashed out, and again their melody rang sweet and 
full as before. 

«4 116 ^ 

:::"::::C THE MARSHES OF CHAPALA ;*::::::::: 

Three times a beautiful hawk, with under parts 
and tail of white, swung- out over us from the willow 
which we had left, uttering low, wheedling cries and 
peering down at us, treading the air overhead with 
vibrating wings. A narrow bar of black stretched 
across the wide-spread tail-feathers, and we knew that 
we had seen the Sennett White-tailed Hawk. Oddly 
enough, the birds in the marshes, large and small, 
showed absolutely no fear, paying not the slightest 
attention to the presence or to the cries of the bird of 

We now came to occasional swampy places with 
small patches of open water surrounded by higher 
ground. Blackbirds, and Cowbirds with red eyes, 
chased grasshoppers and other insects. When an 
occasional hopper of unusually large size sprang up, 
a fluttering mass of feathers, scarlet, white, golden, and 
black would set upon him. But often a low-browed 
Caracara galloped up, scattering the lesser birds and 
appropriating the remains of the insect for himself. It 
was amusing to see how these curious birds seized 
their small prey in the talons of one foot and lifted it 
toward their beak, nibbling at it from between their 
toes, like a cockatoo with a piece of bread. 

All these scenes were noted within a few minutes, 
and then our attention was wholly absorbed by the 
wadinff and water-birds. We rode acre after acre with 
Killdeer and one or two unnamable species of plover 

<i- 117 -h 

:::::::::m TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO mii^ 

calling and dabbling for food in the moist places close 
to our horses' feet. Greater Yellow-legs and their 
miniature copies — the Lesser — waded in the flooded 
areas. The beauties of all the long-legged waders — 
the Black-necked Stilts — were here in great numbers. 
In one small swamp meadow I counted more than 
eighty, and in all directions their striking black and 
white forms were visible, raised above the level of 
the reeds. With all their great length of legs they 
were graceful walkers, their movements having an 
easy swing which Avas most pleasing. From their little 
round heads with the long, slender, needle-like bills, 
the bright jet-black eyes kept sharp watch upon us, 
but they showed no fear unless we approached within 
a few yards, when they glided evenly but quickly to 
one side. 

The Long-billed Curlews Avere more wary, and their 
complaining cries as they took to wing caused the 
Great Blue Herons and the Reddish Eg-rets to strain 
their necks upward suspiciously. These birds were 
conspicuous a long way off ; one could easily count 
half a hundred herons within a hundred yards of our 
horses, but not so the ducks. A few dozen yards away 
there would be visible an indistinct, moving mass of 
many bobbing, mottled forms. As we approached we 
distinguished coots, white of bill and heavy-footed ; 
Mallard Ducks, with their iridescent green heads and 
white necklaces ; Gadwalls, with beautiful marbled 

«4 118 #* 

::::::::se THE MARSHES OF CHAPALA m;::::::: 

breasts, glistening- as the drops of water rolled from 
them ; while Scaup, Shovellers, Pintails, Blue-winged 
and Cinnamon Teal were everywhere. When we actu- 
ally rode into a pool full of these birds, they scrambled 
or splattered a few yards aw^ay into the next swampy 

Then the wonder of the White-faced Glossy Ibis ! 
Not one flock of fifty, nor two, nor five, but dozens ; 
now searching every leaf and reed along a solid front 
of birds ten yards wide, now springing into the air 
and curving unexpectedly back to the ground again. 
They alone would have made the marshes a place of 

Surprises kept drawing us on and on, although the 
shadows of the horses darkened the ground many 
lengths ahead. Four Canvas-back Ducks sprang out 
of a ditch overhung with turf, and hummed through 
the air like bullets ; two tiny grebes left their wake on 
the water for fifty feet before they could acquire im- 
petus enough to rise. But we were told that the best 
vista of all was still ahead, so, sitting upright, we put 
our horses at a gallop, sending up ibises, ducks, bit- 
terns, stilts, and herons, as the bow of a ship throws 
the spray ahead of her. 

The guide pulled up suddenly and pointed ahead, 
and we saw a misty, dun-coloured cloud slowly disen- 
tanoflino- itself from the marsh. The glass showed 
untold numbers of White-fronted Geese drifting slowly 

«4 119 ^ 


oft' toward the lake. To the left were what appeared 
like great patches of white sand or snow, and we 
galloped our horses toward these. Soon the patches 
enlarged, changed their relative positions, and began 
to ascend, and we realized that we were looking at enor- 
mous flocks of Snow Geese taking to wing, — one of 
the most beautiful sights in the world of birds. Reluc- 
tantly we turned backward by a new route — a short 
cut to the town. 

But Chapala honours us with a final farewell. The 
sun is sinking in a cloudless sky, a wind rises from 
somewhere, ruftles the face of the pools and brings the 
scent of the marsh blooms to us. A small flock of 
White-fronted Geese passes rapidly overhead, not very 
high up, when all at once there floats into view cloud 
after cloud of purest white, stained on one edge by 
the gold of the setting sun. We dismount and look 
up until our bodies ache, and still they come, silently 
driving into the darkening north. The great impera- 
tive call of the year has sounded ; the drawing which 
brooks no refusal. 

Our letters from the North tell of snow and blizzards 
— the most terrible winter for many years. No hint 
of spring has yet been felt there, while here in the 
tropics no frost or snow has come through the winter, 
food is abundant, hunters few ; yet a summons has 
pulsed through the finer arteries of Nature, intangible 
to us, omnipotent to the birds. Until dark, and no 

<i- 120 ^ 

:::::::;ae: THE MARSHES OF CHAPALA 2*s:::::::: 

one can tell how long- after, the Snow Geese of Labra- 
dor, of Hudson Bay, of Greenland, of Alaska, perhaps 
of lands still unknown, speed northward. 




(VERY excursion or ride we took throuo*li 
mesquite or desert, or to the wonderful 
marshes, revealed new mysteries ; we had 
hardly entered the threshold of Nature's 
wonder-house, but each evening the setting- sun called 
to us as strongly as ever it did to Magellan or Cortez, 
and before long the summons became imperative. 
Then, discarding all luxuries, we girded on khaki and 
corduroy, cartridge-belt and revolver, and slinging 
our cameras over our shoulders, we boarded the train 
which would carry us to the end of civilization. The 
six hours' run from Guadalajara to Tuxpan, on the 
Mexican Central Railroad, passed quickly, for the coun- 
try was pleasantly diversified. Stretches of alkali desert 
give place to green oases dotted with 'dobe houses ; 
sun-baked maize-fields and tansies of cactus alternate 
with plantations green and restful to the eye. Such the 
foreground, always level, wdiile at a distance, in all direc- 
tions, low mountains rise in graceful lines, with softly 
curving, ancient lava-flows showing gray and barren. 

Wherever a marsh appeared, dark and green, there, 
as usual, feathered hosts were gathered. My journal 

«4 122 ^ 

:::::::::C CAMPING IN A BARRANCA m:;::::::: 

shows notes of species again and again repeated, the 
impression which each new assemblage made being so 
vivid and unexpected. The train once passed slowly 
over a low, rough bridge thrown across a marsh, and 
in an adjoining pool we noted the following birds, most 
of the species represented by scores of individuals, the 
surface of the water and the shore literally covered 
with them ; Coots, Mexican Cormorants, Lesser Scaup 
and Mallard Ducks, Shovellers and Blue-winged Teal, 
two species of Grebes, Gallinules, Jacanas, Green Her- 
ons, Great Blue Herons, Black-necked Stilts, Glossy 
Ibises, and American Egrets ! Fifteen splendid species 
of water and wading-birds feeding together in apparent 
harmony, Avith a fearlessness of man which it would be 
hard to find within the boundaries of our own Republic. 

At last in the far distance there loomed a tall jagged 
peak flecked with snow, and we were told that we were 
looking at the snow mountain of mighty Colima, at 
present hiding her sister of fire. As we backed swiftly 
down into the terminal station at Tuxpan, the con- 
ductor chanced to see a pile of stones which some play- 
ful (?) Mexican had piled upon the track, and the 
air-brakes stopped us just in the nick of time. Such 
pranks (!) are not uncommon, it is said. 

Tuxpan will remain long in our memories of pleasant 
places in Mexico. Our hostesses of the Hotel Central 
were kindness itself, perhaps because la SeTiorita 
Americana seemed to them the personification of femi- 

<4 123 ^ - 

;:::::::»v two bird- LOVERS IN MEXICO xfc::::;:::: 

nine delicacy. " What ! " they exclaimed. " La Sehor- 
ita is going" on into the wild barrancas ? Dios 
ndo ! Impossible ! Think of the hard trail, the fierce 
tigreSj the bandits ! Only yesterday a traveller and his 
mozo were held up and robbed of six hundred pesos ! " 
And so on, but to no purpose. La Seiiorita was more 
resolved than ever, having come thus far, to yield to 
the fascination of the volcano, which drew like a lode- 
stone ; and indeed we knew the dangers were exagger- 
ated by these good people — these women who live but 
the hundredth part of the life of an American girl. 

The hotel was clean and neat, the jxitio shaded by 
masses of oranges and lemons, while tame deer, parrots, 
burros, dogs, cats, and doves occasionally wandered 
past our door, or stopped to regard us with wondering 

We sent for a vaqiiero guide and arranged for horses 
and a pack-train. " Estd rnuij bleu, Senorita,^^ was 
his commendation when he learned that she desired 
a man's saddle. The Mexican women always use a 
most cumbrous kind of side-saddle, carrying two sad- 
dles — one facing left and one right, that they may, 
when cramped, change their positions ; — most uncom- 
fortable for the occupant and dangerous and painful for 
the animal on these steep and rocky trails. Senorita 
gained the guide's devotion and complete admiration 
when he, idly suggesting a comparison of revolvers, 
saw that her weapon, far from being a toy, was better 

«4 124 -^ - 

:::":::3K? CAMPING IN A BARRANCA aE"""" 

than his own. Two mules were to be loaded with our 
tents, cots, provisions, and other baggage, and we pre- 
pared to start at daybreak for the wildest barranca on 
the edge of the tableland. Our plan was to camp there 
for a time, then to move to a lower altitude, and at 
last to pitch our tents in the tropical lowlands beyond 
the city of Colima. Thus we need never be out of 
sight of the ever more wonderful volcano, and yet, by 
encircling it with a line of camps, we might see some 
of the wild Mexican life under many conditions and 
at varying altitudes. 

At sunset, from an ancient well-curb in the centre 
of the plaza, we watched the smoke curling slowly 
upward from the fire mountain, silhouetted against the 
splendour of the western sky. Our hostesses j^assed 
us silently, on their way to the picturesque cathedral ; 
they must pray to-night for the soul of a beloved aunt 
whom they believed to be still in Purgatory ; and soon 
the bell ceased to toll, and the low tones of an organ 
were heard, softened and mellowed by the same hand 
of time which had weathered the gray, lichened walls. 

During the last hour of light, half-clothed young 
boys rushed back and forth, vainly trying to fly a 
home-made kite, with no wind to lift it. We asked 
one of them what he thought of the smoking moun- 
tain, and his face sobered for a moment as he crossed 
himself. " D'los into ! " came the universal exclamation, 
" the priests tell us (and they know), the little diahlos 

^- 127 ^ - 



del monte (devils of the mountain) will roar out at us 
and carry us down with them if we are not good." 
A moment later and he was helping his band of dusky 
onuchachos to round up some unruly calves which had 
ajjpeared from somewhere. 

The cathedral's bell is soft and sweet ; the thought 
of the Catholic legends brings the mediaeval past 
into vivid reality ; Colima's snow peak gleams with 
the last rays of the sun, long since hidden from us ; 
but all this is put out of mind or at least subordi- 
nated to indistinctness in our revery, when the taller 

<4 128 ^ - 

:::::::::^v CAMPING IN A barranca m::::::::: 

apex of black pines and lava is warmed by a dull 
glow, which fitfully rises and falls — the very pulse of 
Mother Earth. Here is the mystery of the cosmos ; 
our lirst g-limpse of earth's primeval fires which have 
glowed since the first cell came into existence — and 
who knows how many ages before? One may read 
of strange customs, and at once see them clearly in his 
mind's eye ; of grand mountains, and imagine their 
appearance and impressiveness ; but of an active vol- 
cano — never ! The awe, the deep reverence it arouses 
is part of one's deepest nature, beyond words or expres- 
sion. It is late that night — and many other nights — 
before Seiiorlta and I interrupt our revery. 

The Mexican guide was tardy next morning,— two 
hours by our watches, — but according to his notion 
only a little, " aJiorlta/' — a very little, — behind 
time. A silver peso bought a large assortment of the 
most primitive earthen ollas, jars and saucers, and 
several plaited straw mats, all of which we found in- 
valuable later on. When these were tied on above the 
packs, we said good-bye to our hostesses ; and our little 
cavalcade clattered off through the deserted streets, 
past the station, the railroad terminus, and the little 
wayside shrine which always marks the completion of 
any considerable undertaking in this country. 

For mile after mile we rode along a level, dusty trail, 
zigzagging through parched mesquite bushes, from 
which a short gallop to one side frightened out Curve- 

<i- 129 ^ 

:::::::::C TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO 5*::::::::: 

billed Thrashers and Mockingbirds and occasionally 
a White-rumped Shrike. All three species, when unmo- 
lested, flew to the ground and fed greedily on a kind of 
black ant which covered the earth in oreat hordes in 
certain sharply defined areas. This seemed an unusual 
habit of the shrikes, which are generally strictly arbo- 
real. Winding through deep crevices worn through 
old lava flows, we came at last to the edg-e of the Bar- 
ranca Atenqulqui (Atenke'ke), and the view before us 
banished all the disappointment which the barrenness 
of the desert behind us had aroused. The deep gorge 
at our feet is bright and green, and at the bottom the 
dense semi-tropical foliage almost conceals the white- 
rippled stream which rushes along. A turn in the 
harranca, some little distance to the right, frames 
the volcano squarely between the two walls, and from 
the gorge to the edge of the gray, impassable, live 
lava, extends a verdant " Promised Land," to roam 
through which we were as eager as were the horses 
for the cool stream below. 

This side of the harranca, however, is steep and 
rocky, and the way to the bottom is treacherous and 
slow. The sure-footed mules felt their way at each 
step, and we leaned far back against the rear pommel 
of the great saddles, the shoulders of the horses work- 
ing laboriously, the animals hanging back in the steep 
places. With a final reckless rush we tore down the 
last slope, shouting out in English and Spanish with 

«4 130 •^^ 

::::::::aK? CAMPING IN A BARRANCA as:::;:::: 

the joy of the journey's end, nor did we pull rem until 
our steeds were deep in the stream-bed. 

There seemed no place to camp, except here almost 
on the very line of travel along the trail, or to go 
farther on, neither of which things we desired. So we 


drove the pack-animals upstream and, urging our horses 
after them, half sw^am, half waded around the nearest 
bend. Here, sheltered from all intrusion, we found a 
level piece of good ground where the barranca stream 
halts its rapid flow and for a few yards widens out 
into a broad, deep pool bordered with sand-bars. The 
hitches were loosened and our packs were taken off 

«4 131 #* 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ^jfe:::::::: 

the mules. Our guide stampeded his lightened caravan 

back to the trail, shouting a long-drawn "Adios " as 

he disappeared, and we were left alone. 

Our tents were soon pitched, and Ricardo, our clever 

little Mexican cook and general alde-de-cajiq), had the 

supper prepared before the short twilight fell. It was 

long after our little camp settled to rest that I finished 

arrang-ino- the thousand and one thinos which a nat- 
es o o 

uralist needs in a country where birds, insects, and 
flowers are as strange to him as if but newly created. I 
walked quietly to where the slowly moving water sent 
back the clear moonlight from its surface, and sud- 
denly the daring of our expedition came fully upon me. 
Behind me the tent shone white through the trees, so 
wee a mark of human presence deep in the maw of the 
wild harranca. A strong enough quake of earth, and 
the boulders silhouetted high above against the sky 
might loosen and slip from their moorings ; a greater 
bubbling of water from the mountain springs, and the 
stream would blot us out ; and yet we have left dangers 
as great in the civilization from Avhich we have fled 
for a season ; all the risks of train and steamer, of dis- 
ease and fire, from which here we were free. But what 
of fierce men and animals ? As a matter of fact, I was 
then far from being a good shot with a revolver, but 
at that moment the feelino; of the rouo-h little handle 
against my hip was infinitely comforting. 

A deep groaning — deeper than the lowest bass of 

- «4 132 > 


any organ — came to my ear, then changed to a londer 
rnmble, and then to a muffled booming, and I knew the 
volcano was speaking. How far underground it worked 
or what forces were contending together, would be 
perhaps forever a mystery, but the realization of such 
mighty powers at work so near, far from arousing 
alarm, seemed to quell all fear, and without another 
disturbing tliought I picked my way back to the tent. 
The sleep which came to us that night was of the qual- 
ity of sweetness known only to those whose happiest 
days and nights are the ones spent closest to the heart 
of wild Nature. 


At daybreak a plunge into the clear, cold stream 
refreshed every sense, and the life of the canyon began 
another day. For us, its birds and trees were created 
yesterday, but the rocks which fringe its summit have 
seen them come and go for centuries. We appeared 
thus suddenly and fitted into the environment as if 
always a part of it, disturbing nothing that we could 
avoid, shooting little except for food, and even that 
with low-sounding guns whose reports brought no 
alarm to the tenants of the harranca. And thus here 
as elsewhere we strove to merge as nearly as pos- 
sible into our surroundings, and by means of neutral 
tinted clothes and quiet watching, to see into the 
real lives of the creatures of this Mexican wilderness. 

" <4- 133 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B'"-"" 

Most of our hunting was done with cameras and 
glasses, and this kind of sport proved fully as exciting 
and required infinitely more skill than the simple level- 
ling of a gun. 

We had not long to wait ; the birds came thick and 
fast ; the insects whirred by our tent ; lizards rustled 
among the leaves. Indeed, for a time we hardly took 
notice of any details, so disconcerting were the impres- 
sions of constantly appearing forms, ncAV and strange. 

The sand-bars in front of our camp were seldom 
untenanted for more than an hour by one or two 
species of birds — both old friends. The first note to 
greet us came from one of these sand-spits, Kill -dee ! 
Kill-dee ! and there a pair of beautiful Kill deer Plov- 
ers stood watching us, their belted breasts of black and 
white bobbing cheerfully, bringing to mind the mud- 
flats of Fundy, the dry uplands of Virginia. Where 
indeed do not the notes of this handsome bird pene- 
trate ? Here from late January on, the Killdeers were 
moving restlessly downstream, passing slowly day after 
day in pairs or small flocks. At first we thought the 
same individuals rea])peared each day, but Avhen occa- 
sionally our larder ran short and we shot a half-dozen, 
the following day Killdeers in equal numbers were 
running about. This slow migration, or at least very 
regular wandering, is shared by another species — the 
Solitary Sandpipers; little waders not wisely named, 
at least in this land, for wherever we saw them they 

" <i- 13-1 h 

""■■"••'C CAMPING IN A BARRANCA m::::::::: 

appeared as fond of each otlier's company as the rest 
of their sandpiper relations. These graceful little birds 
were forever scurrying along the shallows, probing and 
probing for what, they only knew. Their whistling cry 
as they alighted was the signal for the Killdeers to leave. 
There was never any open hostility displayed between 
the two species, and surely there was food enough for 
hundreds, yet the Killdeers flew across the stream or 
on, out of sight, when the sandpipers appeared. 

A remarkable mystery is woven about the breeding 
habits of the Solitary Sandpipers. In the North, during 
migrations, it is seldom that these sandpipers cannot 
be found when searched for ; even during the summer 
they have been observed again and again. Yet so 
carefully do they conceal their nests and eggs, that but 
one or two have ever been discovered. Would that 
some of our rarer birds had equal skill ! 

These little waders certainly enjoyed their feasts of 
worms and " bugs, " but they were exposed to many 
dangers along the open stream, and they had ever to 
keep a sharp lookout skyward for enemies. One day 
a small flock of Solitaries, off their guard for a moment, 
had a narrow escape. Tliey were feeding quietly near 
camp when a Mexican Black Hawk suddenly appeared 
upon the scene and instantly swooped upon them. A 
more magnificent dash I never saw ; a full-rounded 
aerial dive from fifty yards away, increasing to light- 
ning speed, its focus being the group of unconscious 

<i- 135 -^ 

:::::::::*• TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ^ge::::::" 

birds. Some instinct warned, and a despairing cry 
arose from the flock, as they perceived the black 
death ahnost upon them. The hawk's cruel talons 
were outstretched, half bent to clutch. Every gray 
body tumbled off the S2)it of sand, and disappeared 
beneath the surface of the water, while the hawk 
checked his descent with a sino-le wino-beat which 
splashed the stream and then curved sharply upward 
to a dead tree. When the ripples passed, the little 
frightened 'pipers were seen speeding downstream, 
with heads held low, wings half raised, rnnning along 
the bottom. Soon they were lost to view through the 
water, and yards below, where the stream shallowed 
to rapids, five limp forms burst forth and flew close to 
the surface around the turn. We were glad to see the 
sandpipers make their escape, such command of ex- 
pedient deserving nothing less. 

The hawk was joined by its mate, and both flew 
to a tree immediately opposite the camp, in the top 
of which was a rough nest of sticks. During the day 
these birds were away, perhaps hunting, but late in 
the afternoon they invariably returned, showing no 
fear of us or of our camp-fire. At such times they 
flew aimlessly about, or both birds joined in adding 
more sticks to their nest, close to which they roosted 
at night. This desultory nest-building was continued 
throughout our stay, but no eggs Avere laid. Once or 
twice the hawks dashed at a pile of conglomerate rock 

^. 136 ^ 

::::::::3E CAMPING IN A BARRANCA ae:::;:::: 

near the tent and seized a piece of refuse meat which 
Ave had placed there. They were handsome birds, jet 
black throughout, save for three white bands on the 
tail, at base, centre, and tijD, which flashed out when 
the feathers were spread in flight. Wherever we found 
this hawk in Mexico, it was sure to be near a stream, 
and three of their nests which we examined were in 
high trees overhanging the water. 

We soon made the acqnaintance of another Mexican 
bird of prey, more handsome even than the Black Hawk, 
and his aj^pearance was nnder conditions quite as 
sensational as our meeting with the former species. 
A snapshot at a large hawk for identification only 
stunned the bird, and when it showed signs of recover- 
ing, a strong handkerchief was used to bind its feet 
firmly together. It Avas a splendid Mexican Goshawk. 
Its tail is like that of the Black species, but the beau- 
tiful wavy bars of gray and white which mark its 
breast and flanks are characteristic of this bird alone. 
Even the upper parts of the plumage show faint 
traces of these linings, and the head and eyes are 
of noble bearino- — an eagfle in miniature. When his 
faculties returned to him unimpaired, he was quiet 
for a while, but not from fear. His spirit was far from 
being broken, and, biding his time, he made a Avell- 
directed break for liberty. Away his strong wings 
bore him, and he bit fiercely at the white bandage as 
he flew. 

<4 ISI ^ 


Then a curious thing happened. A Western Red- 
tailed Hawk a2Dpeared and, seeing the flash of white, 


imagined it some unwieldy booty which he might claim 
for his own. The war-scream of the Western represent- 
ative of our " Hen-hawk " rang out, and he hurled him- 
self upon the Goshawk. Instantly his claws sank deep 
into the meshes of the cloth ; he became entangled, 

«4 138 ^ 

:::::::;:*; CAMPING IN A BARRANCA m::::::::: 

and with clutching talons the two birds fell rapidly to 
earth, their frantic wing-beats thrashing vainly one 
against the other, impotent to support their ill-balanced 
bodies. Down fell the flutterino- mass of ruffled feath- 
ers square into a thorn-bush, where they lay panting 
and fiercely glaring at one another. To complete the 
tableau, a third species, a Black Hawk, swooped to- 
ward the bush and hovered for a while above the 
helpless birds. 

The incident was fraught with significance when 
we consider that under ordinary circumstances the Red- 
tail would never have dared to approach, much less 
attack, the smaller but fiercer Goshawk. At other camps 
we found the Goshawk a very tame and fearless bird, 
and in hunting and general hawk-character the Red- 
tail ranks far below him. Yet in this instance the stun- 
ning effects of the shot, or the confining bandage, 
instantly revealed to the Red-tail's eye that something 
was wrong. Taking immediate advantage of this slight 
showing of weakness, the less noble hawk made an 
attempt to rob. Thus is the high average of strength 
and health maintained among wild birds. Each is 
ever ready to oust another from a stronger showing of 
power ; each holds his position against competitors 
only by the exercise of his full faculties, and woe to the 
weakling or to the victim of even a slight accident ! 

The note of the Black Hawk is a long-drawn, dom- 
inating scream, coming to the ear down through the 

0^ 189 ^ 

:::::::::=»x TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO :*::::::::: 

air at times Avlien the bird was almost beyond the range 
of vision. The GoshaAvk's cry is a succession of clear 
tones, peculiarly liquid for the notes of a hawk. The 
principal food of the Goshawk in these barrancas was 
lizards, which it snatched up with most marvellous 
skill. The unfortunate saurian would see its fate com- 
ing and flash by so swiftly that to our eyes it passed 
as a streak of brown or green. But the hawk's judg- 
ment is exact. The lizard is sw4ft, the hawk is swdfter, 
and unless a thick tangle is near, into which the rep- 
tile can hurl itself, the meeting of the acute angle of 
its flight and the bird's descent is as certain as fate. 


As I have said, the Black Hawks came about our 
camp in the afternoon and were active until late in the 
evening. Hours after darkness had closed down, we 
heard their screams as they passed overhead. But they 
were awake and aw^ay long before daylight, and dur- 
ing the whole morning small birds seemed more at 
their ease, owing to the absence of birds of prey. Al- 
though Ave were at an altitude of about 4000 feet, 
tropical nature was by no means absent. After the 
chill of nightfall had passed, birds appeared Avhich w^e 
had long; looked forw^ard to seeino*. 

The beautiful little wren-sprites of the harranca 
were the first to waken and sing, and we hardly recog- 
nized in them the Mexican Canyon Wrens of the house- 

«4 140 -^ ■• 

:::::::::^ CAMPING IN A BARRANCA m::::::::: 

tops of Guadalajara. Here they were in their native 
haunts, and their marvellous hymn of sweetness rang* 
out frequently in the early morning-, reechoing among 
the rocky clilfs. We caught the real inspiration of the 
wild joyous strain, which was so 
obscured and fitted so ill with 
the environment of the dusty 
city. It is a silvery dropping 
sono" of eio-ht or ten clear sweet 
notes, becoming more plaintive 
as they descend, and ending in 
several low, ascending trills. 
The silvery quality is of mar- 
vellous depth and purity, and 
although at times the birds 
sang with startling loudness 
from the very ridge-pole of the 
tent, there was not a trace of harshness or aught save 
a liquid clearness. It seemed the very essence of the 
freshness of dawn in the cool bottom of the canyon. 
The little singer was not easily detected in the gray 
light, but at last his tremulous white throat was seen 
high overhead at the entrance of some dripping, mossy 
crevice in the rocks, his tiny body and Avings of dark 
chocolate hue mero-insf into the backoround. 

As the sunlight travelled slowly downward toward 
us, the notes flowed more slowly from his throat, until, 
with the increasing warmth, only a few sleepy tones 

«4. 141 ^ 


:::::::::*• TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*::::::::: 

were heard — like the last efforts of the dying katy- 
dids at the time of the first frost. But the wren him- 
self was far from sleepy. The heat had simply thawed 
the frozen music from his heart and he now beoan the 
serious work of the day. There were spiders and flies 
to be sought among the boulders, and the bird became 
a feathered mouse — creei)ing or running silently and 
swiftly over the rocks, now slipping into a crevice, 
whence he emerged with a half-frozen insect. A quick 
wipe of his bill and he jumped rather than flew to the 
next likely-looking place. So all day goes the tiny 
bundle of feathered energy, the little eyes seeing every- 
thing, the ears ever on the alert, tail erect, reflecting 
every emotion. To catch a Canyon Wren asleep would 
offer itself as a feat worthy of being classed with the 
proverbial effort to find a needle in a hay-stack. Of 
all the birds of the barrancas these wrens perhaps won 
our deepest affection ; so tiny were they, and yet each 
morning filling the whole great gorge with their sweet- 

But the wrens were not the only early risers near 
our tents. A series of sharp explosions or clicks, as 
if from some large insect, or perhaps comparable to an 
exploding pack of very small fire-crackers, mystified us, 
until a tiny green and white form perched upon a stone 
in mid-stream, and we knew the author to be a Little 
Green Kingfisher. This was the term which we applied 
to him before learning his Latin name, some thirty let- 

-4 142 ^ 


ters long, and his generally accepted but utterly inane 
and meaningless common name of Texas Kingfisher. 
Why, forsooth, because a few enterprising individuals 
of his kind have dared to cross the Rio Grande River 
into one of our Southern States, must Ave call the entire 
race Texan, when their natural home is in Mexico and 
Central America? '''What's in a name?" Verily, 
what is not in one ! 

The songs of but few birds, when reduced to musical 
notation and played upon the piano, can be recognized 
until the name of the songster is revealed, and so in the 
case of this diminutive kingfisher ; no one would ever 
call his utterance a rattle until the little fellow — true 
kingffisher from beak to toe — is seen in the act. Then 
the resemblance of the clicking to the rattle of our 
Belted Kingfisher is so absurdly apparent, and yet such 
a parody and travesty in its diminutiveness, that we 
cannot help being amused. For a few days we never 
saw these little birds without the comparison coming 
to mind, but we soon discovered that far from being a 
mere caricature of his larger cousin of the North, the 
Little Green Kingfisher had an individuality of no small 
moment. As soon as he was convinced of our pacific 
intentions, he was perfectly fearless, and went about 
his business wasting but little thought upon us strange 
interlopers. Perfect drones we must have seemed to 
him, with nothing better to do than to stare and stare 
all day. He was an affectionate bird, and kept close to 

«4 U3 > 



liis mate, who was easily distinguished from him. The 
hues of his pkmiage make him a gem in the sunhght ; 
a few inches of glistening, iridescent green, a white 
throat and collar, and a broad band of bright chestnut 
across his breast. The female lacks this ruddy tint, but 
in its place has two bars of beautiful green spots. The 
kingfisher's wings are his chief glory, green like his 
back, and when they are spread in flight, a hundred 
round spots of Avhite flash out, as if his last dive had 
strewn his wings with a myriad flecks of foam. His 
habits differ considerably from those of our familiar 
Belted Kingfisher, as when on the lookout for fish, 
instead of selecting an overhanging branch, he usually 
prefers a boulder in mid-stream, or a flat sand-bar. In 
the eddies behind such places small fishes collected in 
numbers, and the little martin pescador, as the Mexi- 
cans call him, seldom went hungry. 

A pair alighted one day on a sand-bar among the 
sandpipers, waddled awkwardly to the edge, and peered 
intently into the water, their absurd tails perpetually 
jerking up and down. Suddenly, perceiving the object 
of his desire, one of them described a half-circle in the 
air and dropped with unerring aim upon a fish or polly- 
wog. The sandpipers ceased their probing for a mo- 
ment to consider the strange manoeuvres of this little 
companion of theirs. As I shall mention later, when 
water was scarce this sturdy little fellow was in no wise 

«4 144 ^ 

::::::::»x CA^IPING IN A BARRANCA ;*:::;;:::: 

The devoted pair, whose fishing-ground was about 
our pool, guarded their preserve carefully, and when 
a third individual appeared he was hustled unceremo- 
niously off, and hunted out of sight. A glimpse of an 
episode in the life of this pair of tiny kingfishers was 
given to me early one morning, when I was lazily 
swimming across the pool. A great clicking and dart- 
ing about of these birds drew my attention to them, 
and I perceived that an unwelcome third kingfisher 
had appeared, a female, judging from her green-banded 
breast. This was no ordinary intruder, and the most 
vicious attacks upon her by the other female failed 
to drive her away. I had noticed before that when 
the intruder chanced to be a male bird, the male of the 
mated pair figured most prominently in the process of 

Now the females flew at each other, clinched and 
fell to the sand, striking savagely with their long, 
pointed beaks. Having gained a firm foothold, I was 
able to watch every detail in this tragic scene. From 
the very first attack, the stranger seemed to have the 
best of it, and soon her superiority in strength was 
very apparent. Our little mated bird grew weaker 
until she appeared hardly able to stand upright. I 
began advancing through the water, intending to take 
a hand in vanquishing this stranger Amazon, when 
the male, who had been hovering and clicking excitedly 
near by, dashed to the unequal combatants and took 

- ■»4 145 -^ 

:::::::::^v two BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*-:"•"" 

a tardy part. According to the " inexorable law " of 
Nature (or more correctly that of some scientists), the 
male kingfisher should accept the stronger bird and 
relinquish his vanquished mate. But deep in these 
harrancas may not a bird do as he chooses? Before 
I could interfere, he had driven the strange female 
into the air. Around and round they went, close to the 
surface of the water, their white-spotted wings flashing 
by, angry clicks filling the air. At last they disap- 
peared, and not for three or four minutes did the val- 
iant little bird return. His mate was unharmed, and 
together they flew away, and in two days they began 
a nest in a bank of clay some distance upstream. 

The method of starting this tunnel was peculiar. 
The birds took turns in flying at the bank, and, bal- 
ancing on fluttering wings, they made dart after dart 
at its surface, each stroke flicking off a small chip of 
clay from one particular spot. Next day, the hole had 
been bored to a depth of several inches, so that a firm 
foothold was afforded, and the laborious fluttering was 
no longer necessary. This same pair of kingfishers 
spent some of their nights in another hole — j)6i'^i^ps 
an old nest — near camp. 

A third bird-voice rang out in the early mornings, 
unmusical and most penetrating — the call-note of the 
Elegant Woodpecker. Except for a circle of black 
feathers about the eyes, and the golden instead of red 
hue of the nape of the neck, he would readily pass for 

^ 146 |» 

::::::::»x CAMPING IN A BARRANCA m::::::::: 

a Red-bellied Woodpecker, the common bird of our 
South Atlantic States. These birds remain paired all 
through the winter, and are forever calling to each other. 


their loud cries ringing out sharp above all other sounds. 
This habit, together with their conspicuous black and 
white backs and scarlet caps, makes them prominent 
figures in the avifauna of this part of Mexico. They 

«4 147 ^ 

:::::::;:*• TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B----: 

had no fear of hawks, but would attack a Black Hawk 
with as little hesitation as if he were a vulture. Not 
once did the Elegant Woodpecker favour us with tattoo 
on resonant wood. Does he mate for life and thus 
make less use of the methods of invitation and challenge 
so common among all his cousins? 

We were surprised at the number of trees which had 
lost their leaves, fully one third presenting as bare an 
appearance as the deciduous trees at this time of year 
at home. One compensation was the flowering of many 
of these. Before a leaf-bud has unfolded, magnolia- 
like, a hundred beautiful blossoms, burst forth every 
day, the first ones withering and falling, but new ones 
giving the trees a continuous appearance of freshness. 
The most common of these Avas the Cotton Tree {Bom- 
hax i^almeri), which the Mexicans call clamllina, a 
tree of good size, whose oblong flower-buds burst 
open, revealing a radiating tassel of long silky-white 
stamens, five or six inches in length. The petals then 
curve back out of sight, giving the tree the appear- 
ance of a great mass of delicate, silky floss. These 
trees love to grow on the very brink of the barrancas, 
their branches reaching far out over the sheer cliffs. 
The bark peels off in long, fluttering, red streamers, 
thin and transparent, and the rustling of these in tlie 
slightest breath of air is a very characteristic sound 
of the country. 

The flowers were fragrant and attracted hosts of 

«4- 148 ^ - 

::::::::3e CAMPING IN A BARRANCA m:::::::: 

small insects ; these in turn drew the birds, so that the 
fringe of damllinas above the camp was a favourite 
place for many species. As early as six o'clock the 
blossoms of these trees, because of their lofty position, 
flashed back the first rays of the rising sun, while we 
below were in shadow until two hours later. A Louis- 
iana or Western Tanager used to perch high up among 
the flowers each morning, and pour forth a harsh, un- 
musical trill with as earnest a manner as if he thought 
the world was listening, charmed by the grating sounds. 
What a contrast to the musician of an hour before, — 
the Canyon Wren, — garbed in mottled hues of dark 
brown, singing its incomparable strain, is this tanager, 
brilliantly feathered in red, yellow, and black, but utter- 
ing jarring discords. The law of compensation is indeed 
a just one. 

Orioles soon made their appearance, a flock of them, 
somewdiat like our Baltimores, but larger and with jet 
black wings and tail — the Wagler Oriole. Their gaudy 
costume of orange and black is not acquired until the 
third year, and during the first two seasons, the imma- 
ture birds have to be satisfied with more sombre tints 
of light yellow and green. These birds, too, have re- 
nounced song for their coat of many colours, and can 
only rattle harshly. Their alarm-note is hard and metal- 
lic, like that of a nuthatch. 

The tanagers and orioles clamber over and around 
the stamen-blossoms, sometimes hanging by their feet 
«4 149 -^ 



as a chickadee clings to a twig. The white blossoms, 
the birds, — red, orang-e, black, and yellow, — and the 
blue sky beyond, formed a most beautiful sight, which, 
from our darkened point of view below, showed to the 
best advantage. 

One more bird must be added to the list of those 
which appeared more especially in the early morning 
— the Fork-tailed or Golden-backed Humminobirds. 
The acacias growing thickly about our camp were 
covered with masses of sweet-scented pea-blossoms, and 
here scores of these humminobirds deliohted to find 
their food, shooting back and forth or perching for 
an instant to arrange some microscopic plume. This 
<4- 150 ^ 

:::::::::=»x CAMPING IN A BARRANCA m::::::::: 

particular species of chuparosa is all of an iridescent 
green, save the head, which is capped with shimmering 
gold. Occasionally two would meet, hum and poise 
before each other for a fraction of time, their deeply 
forked tails scissoring open and shut, then launch them- 
selves fiercely at each other and fight out their little 
quarrel within a foot of us as we sat at breakfast. 




)HE exigencies of camp life required the 
thinnino' out of tlie small acacias and 
other bushes in the immediate neighbour- 
hood of the tents, and this bare patch of 
ground, far from being barren of interest, provided 
entertainment for hours at a time. The clearing of the 
ground at once attracted the leaf-cutting ants, which 
swarmed to the open place in myriads. We were thor- 
oughly alarmed at first, visions of being compelled to 
move our outfit out to the water-encircled sand-bars 
being far from pleasing. But as it proved, the ants 
gave us not a moment of discomfort, for, by a little 
judicious placing of orange-peels and biscuit-crumbs 
in a sharply defined space, we were able to convey the 
idea to these hordes of insects that the daily falling of 
" manna " was restricted to that particular spot. 

These ants were most interesting little creatures. 
The entrances to their homes were many yards away, 
and yet all day long, two unbroken lines of ants con- 
nected these holes with the new food supjily; one line 
hurrying empty-jawed to the scene of activity, while 
those in the other file were returning heavily laden 

^ lo'-Z #* 

:::::::;3g NATURE NEAR CAMP 2^:::::::: 

with orange-peel or some bit of food. During the first 
few days the majority of the ants transported roughly 
circular pieces of leaves, but news soon spread of the 
more precious treasures, and only a day or two was 
needed for a well-marked path to be worn in the direc- 
tion of each nest. There were two very distinct classes 
or "persons" among the ants, each hard and thorny- 
armoured. The workers, or those which carried the 
burdens, were small, the big-jawed soldiers being much 
larger. The latter loafed along, one to every twenty or 
so of the smaller kind, doing nothing in particular ex- 
cept occasionally brandishing their formidable mand- 
ibles. In one place an ant-trail led over an arching 
branch which lay upon the ground. The removal of 
this caused the greatest consternation. Burdens were 
dropped, soldiers collected rapidly at the broken ends 
of the trail and advanced slowly, waving their pincer- 
like weapons as they went. In three minutes the fore- 
most members of each division met, twiddled antennse, 
and the line of travel was once more open. The work- 
ers hastened back, searched for their discarded loads, 
and hurried along as before. I noticed that for ten or 
fifteen minutes the soldiers were more numerous at the 
point of the accident than elsewhere. 

Some of the diminutive workers carried compar- 
atively immense burdens, a piece of orange-pith three 
or four times as large as the entire body. Occasion- 
ally one would come along staggering under a tall^ 

<4 153 ^ - 


wide-topped scrap of blue or white paper, taken from 
some food wrapping, and looking absurdly like a little 
banner or standard. 

These prickly-skinned ants were seldom eaten by 
birds, but, as the heat increased toward midday, when 
flies and wasps appeared, birds quickly gathered. The 
tiny Western Gnatcatchers were ever twanging their 
little vocal cords, and they were perhaps the most 
numerous small birds hereabouts, but up on the higher 
ground along the harranca top, Audubon Warblers 
excelled in numbers. Associating with the gnatcatchers, 
though not so numerous, were Yellow-bellied Vireos — 
a new acquaintance. They have the habits of fly- 
catching warblers rather than of vireos, and they were 
constantly about the camp, snapping up tiny flies and 
gnats, and uttering their sharp chit! chit! The colour- 
ing of these birds is rather characterless, being yellow- 
ish green above and greenish yellow below, but they 
are bright, vivacious little creatures. 

Occasionally in the mornings, numbers of tiny gray- 
ish warblers came slowly down the walls of the har- 
ranca, feeding as they descended, taking short flights, 
and keeping close to the ground among the dense 
underbrush. These birds lingered at the camp for a 
time, and then, wdth soft, low chirps, all passed on to 
the water, where they alighted on the sand and drank. 
Then, as if at some silent signal, all flew up and re- 
turned quickly, still keeping close to the ground, zig- 

«^. 154 -^ 

:::::::;:*x NATURE NEAR CAMP m::::::::: 

zagging their way upward in a long line, like tiny gray 
mice. They remind one somewhat of Nashville Warb- 
lers, and indeed they area closely related species — the 
Virginia or Rocky Mountain Warbler. The second 
common name indicates its summer home, and here in 
the mountains of Mexico, it is said to be near its south- 
ern limit of migration. Yet it was a very common 
bird. There was much variation in the amount of 
yellow on the under parts, some birds showing much 
more than others. 

In this Barranca Atenquiqui we soon made the ac- 
quaintance of the Derby Flycatcher — one of the most 
characteristic and at the same time one of the noisiest 
birds of Mexico, screaming and calling all through the 
day. It was winter, and insects, while fairly abundant, 
were apparently too scarce to provide the flycatchers 
with their usual diet, and we found them feeding freely 
on berries and seeds. 
These Derbies added 
much to the colour and 
life of the harranca, often 
flying past on their way 
up or down stream. They 
are large and power- 
ful birds, more than ten 
inches in length and strik- 
ingly marked. The throat 

is white, while the rest of derby flycatcher 
■w^ 155 ^ 

::::::;;:=i: TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B-:-"" 

the under parts is bright sulphur yellow ; the back 
is brownish, and the large head is marked with black 
and white, with a crown of l)right yellow and orange. 
At this place Ave had no opportunity of studying them 
at close range, but I mention the bird because of a 
peculiar habit which one individual displayed, namely, 
the art of fishing. This particular Derliy was the only 
one of its species which frequented our camp, and here 
the solitary bird spent much of each morning, unmo- 
lested by the kingfishers, and all but equalling them 
in their own trade. Like the kingfishers, the Derby 
perched upon a rock and watched the eddies, and then 
dived with all his might two or three times in succes- 
sion, each time securing a small fish, or sometimes a 
tadpole. It seemed impossible for him to immerse him- 
self more than three consecutive times, for his plumage 
became water-soaked, and he then flew heavily to a 
sun-lit branch to spread himself to the sun. After dry- 
ing he was at it again. It would be interesting to know 
if, when a bird of such unusual habits mates and raises 
a brood of young, this knowledge would in any way 
be imparted to its offspring. 

Everywhere in the cliffs above us were caves, some 
large, and many small, and toward evening, or in fact 
at any time, by careful watching, the tenants of these 
rocky shelters might be detected. Immediately about 
camp four or five species of lizards were common, all 
small — from two to six inches in lenotli. These liz- 

«4" 1'56 -^ 

::::::::3e NATURE NEAR CAMP aK""-:: 

ards lived among' the crevices of the rocks some distance 
away from the water, and their whole time seemed to 
be spent in creeping stealthily to where they might lie 
in the open upon the hot sand, and in rushing helter- 
skelter back to their holes, at the slightest hint of dan- 
ger. They were victims of an inordinate curiosity, 
and whenever we were quiet for ten minutes or longer, 
a sly glance behind would reveal a score of bright little 
eyes watching our every motion. Start up suddenly, 
and the tumult was langhable. Rustling and scurrying 
the little brown forms would go, only to creep back 
again when all was quiet. Sometimes we cornered one 
near the water, but he would never plunge in. Rather 
than wet himself he would take the greatest risks of 
slipping through our fingers. It was amusing to see 
them, when running, gradually assume an upright posi- 
tion and a bipedal locomotion as their speed acceler- 
ated. The 2"reater the momentum the less use were their 
fore legs. When they were moving most rapidly on 
their hind legs alone, even the tail trailed straight out 
behind, giving no support whatever. 

Once or twice, as we came along the Colima trail, we 
had noticed the black forms of huge Iguanas, as they 
dived into their holes under the banks of earth by the 
roadside. But here we found them at home, looking 
like pieces of decayed wood among the rocky caves. 
A large species of green lizard was very rare, and only 
twice did we catch sight of his two feet or more of 

<i- 157 > 

:::::l"::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B^::::;::: 

body and tail lying, like a gigantic emerald, out- 
stretched upon a stone. But the Iguanas ( Ctenosmira 
acantlmra) are common, from small ones a foot long to 
great fellows forty-five to fifty inches in length. Their 
scales are of a dark hue and mottled, especially over 
the back and neck, with flesh-colour. Along the neck 
and the back is a ridge of tooth-like spines which gives 
the creature an exceedingly fierce appearance. The 
habits of tlie Iguanas are most interesting ; they appear 
to be strictly diurnal, and the hotter the sun the more 
they enjoy basking in it. Not until the cool of early 
morning had passed did they appear, crawling slowly 
out of their gloomy caverns to the highest point of 
rock near by, and, holding themselves as high as their 
short legs would permit, they looked carefully around 
in all directions. It takes little imagination to magnify 
the stone upon which an Iguana is resting into a huge 
boulder, and the lizard to a measure of feet instead 
of as many inches, — and the world has slipped back 
two, four, six millions of years, and the Ceratosaurus 
of the Jurassic Age is before us. 

The Iguana is apparently soon satisfied that every- 
thing is as it was the day before, and it slowly settles 
down, sprawling flat upon the stone, of which, to all 
intents and purposes, it becomes a part. The keenest 
eye fails to differentiate rock and lizard, so exactly 
does the mottling of the creature's scales harmonize 
with the weathered and lichened surface of the stone. 

«4 158 #» " 

::::::::3e NATURE NEAR CAMP ^:::;:::: 

But nothing ever escapes the gaze of the black spirits 
of the barranca, and soon a vulture swoops close, 
craning its neck and leering at the lizard to see if 


perchance its ally, Death, has not passed here and 
provided a repast. In an instant the lizard is up full 
height, and with mouth wide open it sways from side 
to side, then throws its head up and down, snapping 

-04 159 -^ •• 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"'-"" 

at the upward fling. A most remarkable performance 
it is and well calculated to impress an enemy with the 
formidable character of the creature. In reality the 
Iguana is singularly defenceless, and these terrifying 
actions are pure "bluff." The upcurved pinions of 
the vulture swing outward, and the bird floats evenly 
across the abyss to the opposite cliff. The Iguana 
seems to realize the harmless nature of the bird of 
carrion since, at the approach of a hawk, the reptile 
turns and scrambles, with all speed, headlong into its 

When the midday heat had driven most creatures 
to shade or hole, the Iguanas slept peacefully on the 
heated rocks. They feed on almost any kind of veg- 
etable food, — roots, bark, or leaves. We found the 
flesh of these creatures delicious. " Dlos mio ! Esta es 
veneno ! " exclaimed our Mexican when we brought in 
a large Iguana and asked that it be cooked for supper. 
We explained that it was not poison, and in fact we 
found it sweet and delicate, the meat being as tender 
and white as chicken, and very similar in taste to frogs' 
legs. After that the Iguana appeared as a regular item 
on our bill of fare. These great lizards are said to 
grow to a length of six feet, but all which we saw 
were under five. Their eggs are long and yellowish 
white in colour. They lay about fifty during the early 

Immediately opposite our camp was a large, irregu- 

«4 160 ■&> 

::::::::3e NATURE NEAR CAMP xfe:::::::: 

lar-mouthed cave, high up on the face of the cliff, 
which we discovered was tenanted by a remarkable 
assemblage of living creatures, putting to shame even 
the mythical "happy families" of the prairie-dog 
burrows of our Western States. Each morning a pair 
of Mexican Canyon Wrens flew out of this cave, and, 
after drinking at the stream below, they returned to 


..«41G1 ^.. 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*-""■"" 

the entrance and sang their silvery song over and over 
again. Later in the day three or four large Iguanas 
crawled lazily out upon the rocks and basked for hours 
in the sunshine, or scrambled along the narrow ledges 
of stone, foraging among the low vegetation. Long 
before the sun's rays became tempered by the breezes 
of the late afternoon the great lizards had disappeared 
and the next actors upon the little stage were two 
small Horned Owls. These were the most difficult of 
all to observe, as they slipped out at dusk, their dark 
mottled plumage melting almost instantly into the 
dimness as they launched out and flew with silent 
Aving-beats upstream. We never discovered when they 

The most unexpected sight occurred a little after the 
flight of the owls. In the semi-darkness of the cave, 
a confused mingling of shadowy forms Avas seen, Avalk- 
ing about or reaching up Avitli tiny hands — like a 
crowd of little gnomes, up for a rest from their labours 
in the great underground smelting-room of the volcau. 
Soon they crowded near one side and in single file crept 
along the ledge trail which led to the almost impene- 
trable jungle opposite our camp — ten Mexican Rac- 
coons which made this cave their home. 

Once in broad daylight we made our way to the op- 
posite summit, and clambered doAvn, loAvering ourselves 
with saplings and hanging vnies until we Avere at the 
entrance itself. The only explanation of the apparent 

«4 162 •>> 

::::::::3K NATURE NEAR CAMP ;p:::::::: 

friendly commingling of these reptiles, birds, and 
mammals seemed to be that the cave extended far in- 
ward, not in one large cavity or room but dividing and 
subdividing into galleries and tunnels, far too small 
for us to crawl into, but in whose innermost recesses 
the little wrens probably found safety. The owls per- 
haps perched high up on the walls, and the Iguanas 
and Raccoons disposed themselves after a manner best 
known to them. There is no reason to suppose that 
any of these creatures were actually befriended, or 
even tolerated by the others, but the exigencies of 
cave life had certainly brought together strange com- 
panions. Somehow, aided by their diversity of habits, 
they managed to avoid each other. 

The unfortunate end of the piscatory Derby Fly- 
catcher came about in this way. Some of the Raccoons 
usually made their way directly to the water, and 
drank and splashed about in the darkness. One even- 
ing it happened that the Derby was fishing from 
a sand-bar on the opposite bank. One of the coons 
must have stealthily made his way through the under- 
brush to within a short distance of the preoccupied 
flycatcher. Suddenly we heard a loud rustle and the 
poor bird gave utterance to the most piercing screams, 
which echoed and reechoed from cliff to cliif. The be- 
drasfo-led feathers of the bird doubtless rendered it an 
easy prey. An instant more and a dead silence settled 
over all. Next morning we found a pile of yellow 

■e4 1G3 -^ 


feathers, and the telltale bear-like footprmts of the 
animal. The Raccoon returned the following night, 
but the bird, which he found ready slain, was tied to 
the pedal of a steel trap, and by the law of fate w^e 
enjoyed a delicious stew, made from the fattest of 
coons. The Derby was avenged. 

Filtering through the purifying pumice, a sweet, 
cold spring gushed out at the base of the cave cliff 
opposite, and, in deepening a water-hole, I made an 
interesting discovery under a stone — a good-sized 
crab, about the size of the Spirit Crabs which are so 
abundant along the southern Atlantic coast. I was as 
surprised as if an anemone had drawn in its tentacles 
before me in this fresh water. Land Crabs are old 
friends of ours, but a typical aquatic crab, living in 
this little stream, nearly four thousand feet above the 
sea, seemed most astonishnig. My momentary surprise 
was the crab's gain, and without warning it sidled 
away into deep water, avoiding every effort at capture. 
But one other was ever seen, and that too escaped me.^ 

Toward the end of our stay of a little over a week, 
insects became more abundant, especially butterflies ; 
yellow ones of four sizes, from minute little dabs of 
sulphur, fluttering over the blossoms, to great golden 

^ I have later learned tliat the genus Pseudothelphusa, to which this 
crab belonged, contains over forty species, all living in fresh water, wliieh 
range over the West Indies, and from the locality in which we were 
camping, south to Peru and Brazil. 

<^- 164 ^ 

::*? NATURE NEAR CAMP m:::::::.': 

fellows, more than four inches across the wings, which 
flapped slowly just out of reach. The dainty Heli- 
conias were quite common, and very different from any 
family of butterflies Avhich we have in the North. 
Their wings are long, narrow oblongs in shape, a vel- 
vety black ground colour, splashed and dotted with 
bright yellow. When in the net, more consjDicuous 
insects can hardly be imagined ; but, although they 
move slowly, like soaring birds, being protected by 
nauseous juices of their bodies, yet, in the woods, they 
blend in a remarkable way with their environment. 
They seldom come out into the open, or gather at the 
sand-pools, but keep in the thick underbrush, thread- 
ing the tangles of vines and fronds, floating and drift- 
ing, though not a breath of air stirs the leaves. Here 
where the darkness of the dense shadows is pierced by 
narrow shafts of yellow sunlight, the beauty of the 
Heliconias dissolves, their contrasted colours mero-ins" 
into a cloak of invisibility. Three or four of these 
butterflies upon a single leaf are not noticeable until 
they take to flight. 

Wasps and hornets now appeared and, in many 
cases, began to build their nests. Picking up a stone 
from near the water, one day, I alarmed a brown 
spider, which rushed out. Instantly a metallic green 
wasp, less than an inch in length, darted down and 
the two struggled fiercely together. The contest was 
short and the spider's legs hung paralyzed and helpless. 

«4 165 #* " 

:::::::::*' TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B-""- 

The wasp first flew five or six feet into the air, circled 
around once or twice, then returned, and dragged its 
prey ( which was larger than itself) laboriously to the 
top of a rock, tumbling headlong down the opposite 
steep slope into the Avater. A very foolish wasp, quoth 
I, but wait : we know not what to expect of these 
tropical creatures. Without an instant's hesitation, 
as if it were an every-day habit or instinct, the wasp 
stretched out its four front legs upon the surface of 
the water, grasped the floating sjiider with its two hind 
legs, and, spreading its wings, buzzed merrily upstream 
over the ripples ! The insect could not possibly have 
flown with this heavy burden. But the end was yet to 

The wasp evidently wished to reach a large boulder, 
some two feet from shore, past which the water swirled 
rapidly. After several ineffectual attempts to tow its 
burden across, it clambered along a rock on the shore, 
dragging the spider just clear of the surface until it 
reached a spot where the water ran with less force. 
Here it again launched out, keeping close to shore. 
This time it reached a point which was a foot or two 
upstream above the boulder. Then the wasp turned 
abruptly outward, redoubled its efforts, and instantly 
was tumbled and rocked about in the midst of the rip- 
ples — which, to it, were waves of no mean size. It 
was carried swiftly downstream, but, by aiming toward 
the rock and working its wings frantically so that they 

«^. l(>() -^ 

:=iM NATURE NEAR CAMP Ife:::::::: 

were merely a dim haze, it was successful in reaching 
and remaining in the eddy below the boulder, — still 
water, — across which it easily ferried its burden. 
Landino; on the moist earth which had accumulated 
there, it disappeared with the spider into a hole which 
it had doubtless previously excavated. 

The fact of the little wasp using the water as a 
medium upon which to propel its burden was marvel- 
lous enough, but the quick succession of complex events, 
met with so much seeminof intelliijence and with such 
apparent resource of expedient and such dispatch, left 
us astonished beyond expression. Whether blind 
instinct, or chain of coincidences, or expression of any 
higher mental phase, prompted the actions of the wasp, 
I will not attempt to say, but, to the observer able to 
overlook the whole scene of operations and to see at a 
glance all the attending causes and effects, the ajyparent 
philosophy in the actions of the insect is startling. If 
my companions had not seen the whole affair I should 
hesitate to record it in print. 

Every day about noon, an old, old man drove several 
forlorn cows down the trail and up past our camp, for 
a drink and an hour's feed of fresh green grass. A 
ragged shirt, a breech-clout, and a pair of dilapidated 
sandals formed the wdiole of his outfit. He knew not 
a word of Spanish, but jabbered cheerfully away to us 
in some strange Indian tongue, — Aztec, we pleased 
ourselves by calling it, — as if we understood every 

«4 167 -^ 

::::::::»v TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-""" 

word. When he learned that we were afraid to have 
his half-wild cattle roaming at will about our provision 
tent, he took great pains, by means of handfuls of 
gravel and a torrent of '' Aztec " expletives, to banish 
them to the opposite side of the stream. His greeting 
was always " Ping-23ong racket ! " This may seem 
absurdly trivial and irrelevant, yet these syllables 
exactly represent his utterance. "Ping-pong racket ! " 
I shouted to him as he appeared with his wild charges. 
"Ping-pong racket! " he answered joyfully, and patted 
me on the back with an outburst of incoherent gut- 
turals, doubtless expressing his pleasure at my ready 
grasp of his mother tongue ! 

He showed us where the purest and coldest spring 
was to be found, for which we were extremely grateful. 
A bowl of frljoles drew expressions of extravagant 
delight from him. But he seemed most pleased if only 
we would talk to him, although the words could con- 
vey not a particle of meaning. I would converse for 
a while in my choicest German, then harangue him with 
all the Latin I could recall and perhaps end with an 
-^sop's Fable, or part of the multiplication table. 
Whether I gravely informed him that Artemia scdina 
could be converted into Artemia 7nnhlenhausii by 
adding fresh water and stirring, or whether I chanted 
the troubles of ^neas, the venerable " Aztec " courte- 
ously listened with the greatest interest ! 

His final greeting was tremulous and sincere, and, as 

«4 168 ^ 

:::::::::*; NATURE NEAR CAMP m::::::::: 

we repeated the phrase which sounded so ridiculous to 
our ears, we felt a strong pity for this poor ignorant 
man, whose speech was that of long-gone centuries. 
And yet he had no need of our sympathy. Day after 
day for years (so we gathered from his sign language) 
he had driven his cattle back and forth from some tiny 
village miles away. He was faithful in this and his 
happiness was full. It was overflowing when, at part- 
ing, we gave him some little trinkets and our spare 




|NE day we reluctantly broke camp and 
packed over the trail, with mules and 
horses as before. Mile after mile we went, 
now galloping- across a level plain, now 
plunging deep down into a tropical barranca. At high 
noon we reached our objective point — the great 
Barranca Vueltran, and across its wide chasm the lire 
volcano loomed near and grand. But Vueltran proved 
narrow at the bottom, with most precipitous sides — 
not a good place to walk and watch for animals and 
birds, so after a lunch of chicken and eggs, to obtain 
which we searched for the eggs and killed the chicken, 
we remounted and turned back upon the trail. 

The sun sank lower and lower, the night loomed 
black ahead of us, but we rode on and on into a wdld 
and unknown country, overlooked always by the two 
voleanos of snow and fire. And still we found no place 
suitable for camping. We Avere lost, and found our 
path by hardest search, with only the pale moonlight 
to guide us. Mexicans — some of whom appeared too 
much interested in our luggage — passed us with drawl- 
ins; '^Buenas noches, SeTwres." Weird forms scurried 

<<■ 170 -^ 

:::::::::m NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS ;*::::::::: 

from our path ; girths broke and weary mules insisted 
on lying down and rolling upon their loads. 

At last, exhausted and disappointed at not finding 
a good water camp, we called a halt and dismounted. 
The packs were slipped and the Mexican cowboy and 
his animals left us. We appeased our hunger with 
jKui dulce and sardines, and, placing our trunks and 
bags in a circle, we threw the tent over them and lay 
down on the ground to sleep soundly until the sun- 
lio'ht woke us and brought to consciousness the strano-e 
denouement of our day's journey. 

We found ourselves in a beautiful and unnamed 
harranca, and, lucky indeed ! with an ample stream but 
a few yards away, while the changed character of the 
vegetation showed that a more tropical climate reigned 
here than in Atenquiqui. Our first undertaking after 
breakfast was to find a good camping-place, and this 
offered itself near at hand. We knew nothing of the 
character of our nearest neighbours, so a little shelf of 
earth, against a steep cliff, fronted by an impenetrable 
tangle of thorn-bush and cactus, seemed an ideal loca- 
tion. On this ledge we pitched our tents, utilizing two 
open spaces below the ledge for kitchen and dining- 
room. Crusoe on his desert island was hardly more 
isolated than we in our snuo- retreat. After we had 
closed the only doorway with mesquite and cactus, no 
one could penetrate to our camp, save by enduring 
a terrible punishment from the frightful array of 

- «4 171 #» 

:::::::::*; T\YO bird- LOVERS IN MEXICO Is:::::::: 

thorns and spines. Our blindly selected camping-place 
was at the junction of an arroyo — or dry river-bed 









*' ■ ) 




— with the clear harranca stream, and, as it j^roved, 
we could not have chosen a more convenient and 
auspicious spot. 

One morning- two little Mexican children, passing at 
a distance, spied our tents and approached, their eyes 
wide with curiosity. We had just finished breakfast, 
and had an abundance left over. Senor'ita's kind heart 
took pity on them and she invited them to eat all they 

■04 172 ^ 

:::::::::C NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS m::::::::: 

wanted. The poor little half-starved creatures rushed 
at the food and ate and ate until I liardly thought that 
they would survive their meal. Before they had finished, 
a surly-looking Mexican rode up, fairly bristling with 
revolvers and knives. We recognized him as fulfillino- 
the description of the " bad man " of this district, the 
leader of a gang of bandits. He may have been a hard- 
ened desperado, but SenoritrCs kindness to his chil- 
dren, for such they proved to be, won his heart, and 
our cereal ''cast upon the waters" was returned to 
us abundantly ; for lie helped us in finding certain 
animals and birds of which we were in search, and in 
a hundred ways thereafter firmly fixed our opinion that 
a Mexican bandit, when his good will is won, is a highly 
desirable person to have about camp. 


In the morning we were wakened by the screams of 
macaws. When the notes first reached my ear, I knew 
that I had heard them before, but where I could not 
think, and not until I rushed out and saw the birds 
did I connect the sound with the din of a parrot-house 
in a zoological park. There the harsh screams rend 
one's ears, but here, between the walls of the mighty 
gorge, it is an entirely different utterance. From high 
overhead the guttural tones come softened, and our 
eyes following, we see a pair — always a pair — of 
the great birds, with their long, sweeping tails and 

<i. 173 ^ 

::::;:::aK TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO Ik:::::::: 

quickly vibrating wings, passing steadily across the sky. 
While thus silhouetted against the light, they seemed 
black, but when they reached a background of rock 
or trees their colours flashed out — beautiful living 
p'reens with lesser tints of brown and ooklen olive. 
They were Military Macaws, and they always flew thus 
closely together, morning and evening, from roost to 
feeding-ground and back. The number of kinds of 
birds which remained closely associated in pairs all dur- 
ing the winter was remarkable, and perhaps indicated 
that many more species of Mexican birds mate for life 
than is the case with the birds of our Northland. 

Before we left the North we said to each other, " Of 
course we shall see wild parrots," and here were the 
first of these birds, in the form of these macaws. But 
we were not in the least prepared for the sight. When 
all one's life one has associated such creatures as par- 
rots with cages and seed-cups, no matter how prepared 
in mind one may be to see them free in their native 
haunts, yet when the actual first experience comes, it 
is always with a most delightful thrill to the senses. 
Parrots then were not evolved, hatched, and reared on 
" T " perches with a cracker in their beaks ; but existed 
after all in as wild and sjjeechhss a state as other 
birds ! 

The macaws were not the only birds of beautiful 
plumage and long tails. Occasionally a tumultuous 
flock of Long-tailed Crested Blue Jays, or Magpie 

«4 174 ^ 



Jays, measuring over two feet from head to tail, — the 
grandest of all their race, — burst down the canyon ; 
twenty or thirty brilliant blue and white forms, grace- 
ful in every motion, with tall, recurved, fan-like crests, 
and tails so long and plume-like that the feathers un- 
dulate behind them as they fly. In cry and action they 
are thoroughly jay-like, and in curiosity they equal 

«^ 175 ^ 


any member of their family. Quietly hidden under 
thick brush, I often looked forward to an interestino- 
hour's watching of the wild life, when the sharp eyes 
of one of these inquisitive birds would spy me out and 
put an end to all need of concealment in that vicinity. 
He would shriek and cry his loudest, alarming the 
most confiding species, and making every bird within 
a quarter of a mile uneasy and suspicious. Some of 
these jays have white throats, outlined by a band of 
blue, while in others the whole throat and front of the 
neck is black. Perfect gradations existed between 
these two extremes, the difference being due solely to 
age. The jays seemed to feed on anything — nuts, 
seeds, berries, insects, and even small birds, wdiich, 
apparently paralyzed with fear at the shrieks of the 
blue marauders, were an easy prey. 

A very different bird is the Rufous Cuckoo, which is 
to our cuckoo as the Long-tailed Crested Jay is to our 
Blue Jay — an extreme development fostered by this 
lifeful tropical country. No loud-voiced rascal was 
this cuckoo, but a slender shadow of a bird, which 
slipped so easily through the thickest coverts that the 
eye was continually losing him. At times but a distant 
glimpse might be had, and again a pair of the birds 
would sit quietly within five or six feet, moving in 
their peculiar flowing manner from branch to branch. 
They are exquisite in their plumage, which is downy, 
like fine silk — a rich brown rufous from head to tail, 

- «4 176 #c 

::::::::3v NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS vfe:::::::: 

while beneath, the ruddy hue melts insensibly into pink 
and pearl-gray. The cuckoo had the badge of his 
family in the quadruple gradation of the tail feathers, 
each one tipped with black and white. The tail ex- 
presses every emotion of the bird, now closing to a line 
and following the creepings of its owner ; now spread- 
ing to a parti-coloured fan, as he hovers before a leaf 
and snatches an insect ; now raised high over his back, 
as he stops for a watchful glance at us. We never 
tired of watching these beautiful birds, so quiet, so 
gentle of movement, and so soft in colour. When 
quietly feeding they occasionally utter a soft meLr, and 
when suddenly alarmed, as at the tumult of the jays, 
a loud chirj), like the alarm-note of the robin, escapes 

Those stranofe unlike cousins of the cuckoos — the 
Roadrunners — never descended into our green har- 
ranca, but in the straggling mesquite near the top of 
the clifPs, their slim forms, mottled and coloured with 
an indescribable pattern of grays and browns, were not 
uncommon. What mighty steel springs must be in 
their slender legs ! ahvays crouching, as a runner start- 
ing to sprint, and they are indeed runners and leapers 
of the highest rank. One sailed into view one morning 
from over a boulder, changed locomotion from wings 
to feet, without an instant's hesitation, and leaped 
eight feet straight upward to another boulder, where 
he squatted and w^atched us, his crest nervously rising 

«4 177 •>: 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B-""-" 

and falling. Now he spied a lizard below him, slipped 
ott' the stone, and dropped like a plummet upon the 
reptile. One stroke of the bill killed his prey and then 
the bird stood upon it, with his tail raised so high 
that it pointed forward, like that of a wren. The Road- 
runner loves the desert with its hot sand, its dusty 
cactus-pads, and its dry mesquite. No water trickles 
there, no leaves rustle, no birds sing amid the solitude ; 
and the Roadrunner too is dumb, venting his feelings 
only in an occasional loud castanet clatter of his mand- 
ibles — like the breaking of dry sticks. 

The feet of the Lono--tailed Javs, with the usual 
three toes in front and one behind, seemed perfectly 
adapted for perching ; but when we observed the ma- 
caw^s climbing about the branches of trees, we thought 
how admirably the condition of two toes in front and 
two behind Avas adapted for climbing; but here was 
the cuckoo as much at home in the trees as the jays, 
and the Roadrunner, also with equally divided toes, 
doing everything, running, leaping, climbing, and 
perching ; so we withdrew our theories of " best 
adaptations" in confusion. If only Nature would 
make her whys and wherefores more plain ! 


Before we had been in camp two days, a flock of 
small parrakeets — the Red-and-blue-headed — dashed 
past the tents and alighted near by. These little 

- «4 178 ^ 

:::::::.:C NEAR THE TWIN \ OLCANOS m::::::::: 

fellows have an individuality which is irresistible. 
They are the most sociable little creatures, calling 
loudly to each other when on the wing-, and keeping 
up a continuous low chuckling and chattering when 
perched. One would climb, foot over foot, to a large 
fruit, take several bites and return to his mate, close 
to whom he would snaggle and offer his head for an 
affectionate nibble. The favourite fruit of these birds 
was very sticky and juicy, and the little creatures were 
almost always in a disgracefully soiled, condition, — 
their bills and heads encrusted with the gummy liquid. 
These little parrakeets were not shy, but very watch- 
ful, and, when frightened, they always flew to a curious 
tree which, though bare of leaves, was sparsely covered 
with an odd-looking, long and four-sided fruit of a 
green colour. Under such circumstances they alighted 
all together, and, unlike their usual custom of perching 
in pairs, they scattered all over the tree, stood very 
upright, and remained motionless. From a distance of 
fifty feet it was impossible to distinguish parrakeet from 
fruit, so close was the resemblance. A hawk dashed 
down once and carried away a bird, but the others 
remained us still as if they were inanimate fruit. This 
silent trust in the protective resemblance of the green 
fruit was most remarkable, when we remembered the 
frantic shrieks which these birds always set up at the 
approach of danger, when they happened to be caught 
away from one of these Parrot-fruit trees. These latter 

^- 181 #» 



have no common name ; botanists know it as Pileus 

Several times during our stay we saw a beautiful 
sunset flig-ht of Finseh Amazon Parrots. A flock of 
two hundred or more, massed together as closely as 
possible, appeared high in air, alternately soaring and 

«4 182 #» 

:::::::::«£ NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS m::::::::: 

fluttering. Then the entire flock swung earthward in 
a magnificent loop, from wafl to wall of the barranca, 
the delicate lavender edgings of the feathers showing 
plainly as they swept past with a loud whirr of wings, 
each little foot cKnched tightly close to the tail-feath- 


ers. Upward they went again, swinging together with 
a grace and unison, of which one never gets a hint 

«4 183 ^ 

::::::::»i TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO >*:::::::n 

from caged specimens. All the time the macaws floated 
past high ill air toward the west — two and two — as 
alike as a single bird and its shadow. 

Evening after evening we were mystified by the call 
of some bird which came to our ears at the same hour. 
For a long time the bird evaded our search. Lying in 
wait in the hope of getting a photograph of a gigantic 
raven which occasionally wheeled and croaked about 
our camp, I saw a long-tailed greenish bird dash past 
me and perch near by. It sat very upright and its 
tail hung straight down, and it was like nothing that 
I had ever seen before. And no wonder, for it was 
a Coppery-tailed Trogon, the type of a family of birds 
new to me. The green of the bird's back and tail was 
not conspicuous, but, when it darted up into the air and 
returned to its perch facing me, the full glory of the 
delicate rose-pink on its lower breast was apparent. 
This hue is evanescent, not only in shade but in com- 
position, and in the skin of a dead bird it will fade, and 
if exposed to the light, will, in a very short time, com- 
pletely disappear. The call of the trogon, uttered 
especially toward evening when it came to drink, was 
a soft series of melodious notes, reminding one some- 
what of the content-call of a hen with chickens. Reg- 
ularly at dusk two of these birds went to roost in a 
dense tangle of wild clematis, whose soft, fluffy seed- 
plumes were at the height of their ripened beauty. 

Little doves were very abundant about camp, both 

«4 184 l» 

::::;:::3e NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS m::::::::: 

the Mexican Ground Doves and the Lono--tailed Incas. 
They rattled the dead leaves, making noise enough for 
creatures many times their size, and went scurrying 
through the undergrowth like little brown mice. When 
frightened they clattered up and jerked themselves 
through the air to the nearest tree, where they perched 
lengthwise along the branches like Nighthawks. This 
little trick was apparently practised by the doves of 
only this locality, as elsewhere they seemed never to 
have learned it. The familiar Mourning Dove of our 


<i 185 #» 

:::::::::m TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO ?*::::.::- 

Northern harvest fields was also abundant, spending 
the winter with these smaller cousins. 

The stream ran too rajjidly for kingfishers at this 
place, but Black Phcebes were abundant. Rock Phcfibe 
would be an excellent name for these birds, which 
perched all day on the boulders in mid-stream, making 
short dashes at the gnats which hovered over the foam- 
ing Avater. The note of the Black Phoebe is sharper, 
not drawn out like the voice of our phcebe, but pro- 
nounced and distinct, just as his colours are clear-cut 
and sharp-edged, — black above, white below, — giving 
him a decided character, very different from the com- 
mingling of dull hues of our bridge bird. 

The sun reached our little cam]) beside the stream 
much earlier than it did in the Barranca Atenquiqui, 
and this early warmth, together with the many flowers 
and juicy wild fruits on the sloping walls around us, 
attracted many insects, and consequently flycatchers 
abounded. We found no less than ten species of these 
birds near camp, and others were seen, but too imper- 
fectly for identification. So similarly were four or five 
of these species coloured that it was most confusing 
to tell which was which, unless several were in sight 
for comparison. For every size of insect there seemed 
to be a flycatcher with corresponding exjDanse of beak, 
although at this season fully two thirds of the food of 
these birds consisted of berries, two kinds predominat- 
ing, one currant-like and the other larger, with pits 

" <i- 186 ^ - 

:::::::::^ NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS ;*::::::::: 

like those of cherries. But wherever a g'oodly number 
of insects were gathered together, there the flycatchers 
quickly came. 

Our old friends the beautiful Vermilions were not 


common, but the Ash-throats were very abundant, and 
their far-reaching che-hoo ! che-hoo ! rang out fre- 
quently. Swainson Flycatchers, looking for all the 
world like phuebes, were confiding and gentle little 
birds, and, together with a smaller yellow-bellied spe- 
cies, known as the Querulous, often came close to 
camp and watched us curiously. One morning a fa- 
miliar note brought me quickly out of my tent, and, in 

«4 187 ^ 


the tree overhead, seeming strangely out of phice in 
this wild Mexican landscape, was a company of Least 
Flycatchers. We regarded every familiar bird with 
suspicion at first, fearing that what seemed so well 
known might be some Western or Southern variety, but 
there was no mistake this time. The half-dozen little 


gray forms sat and flung che-hecs ! at one another, 
exactly as they would do in Central Park, or in the 
Orange Mountains, a few months later. It was too 

<i- 188 ^ 

::::::::j1: NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS ae:::::::: 

early in the morning for insects, and the httle birds 
remained quiet until, startled at the click of my cam- 
era, they were out of sight in a moment. 

The four largest flycatchers (all gray or brown 
above, white-throated and yellow-breasted) were the 
Giraud Flycatcher, the Cassin Kingbird, the Derby, 
and the Pitangua Tyrant. The latter bird — the giant 
of all flycatchers — can hardly be left unnoticed here, 
as it was so conspicuous a feature of our surroundings. 
It was larger than even the Derby, and it had a bill so 


-4 189 #* 

:::::::::C TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO Sfe-"""" 

flat and broad that a frog was instantly bronght to 
mind. Its hoarse cry was very different from the notes 
of the other birds, and was not unUke the tearr-r-r ! of 
an anxious mother tern. When several pairs of these 
birds alighted in a near-by tree, they seemed the very 
grandsires of all flycatchers. The Least Flycatchers 
did not deserve their name, at least not in this bar- 
ranca, for we now and then caught sight of the tiniest 
and shyest of all — the Beardless Flycatcher. It was 
undoubtedly a bird of this species, and we were sorry 
that we did not succeed in getting close enough to it 
to learn some of its habits. All of this species which 
we saw later were feedino; on small berries and not 
on insects. 


Whether we sat quietly by the foaming stream or 
picked our way through bushes and over rocks along 
its banks, there was always something new and strange 
to see, and if we could have remained years instead of 
a week or two, there would have been no lessening of 
interest on our part. Mexican Cormorants flew back 
and forth, and, for an experiment, one day we had Ri- 
cardo parboil one for us and then make it into a stew, 
and we were surprised to find that the meat was tender 
and that it had no disao-reeable odour. These cor- 
morants varied their diet of fish with certain aquatic 
plants, which grew in the more quiet pools. Mallards 

-s^ 190 ^ 

;:::3v NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS ;«c::":; 


and Cinnamon Teal passed now and then, seldom 

Perhaps the most constant haunters of the stream 
were the Violet-green Swallows, whose white breasts 
were seen all day long, darting up and down its course; 

«4 191 ^ 

::::"::»x TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"""" 

now shooting ahead and suddenly bringing- up, bal- 
ancing a moment on half-spread wings, then darting 
on again. Back and forth they would go, in loose, 
irregular flocks, winnowing the air of insects. Fifty 
or more would straggle past and a few minutes later 
return downstream, apparently remaining in the warm 
zone, sheltered from the winds, where insects were more 
abundant. These swallows and the Black Plicebes were 
active even during the greatest heat of the day. 

Not far from camp were several groves of wide- 
branching wild fig-trees. These were the grandest 
trees of this part of Mexico, branching almost from 
the ground and stretching out their vast mass of foli- 
age on all sides. Some of them measured fully ten feet 
through, near the base. Their fruit is devoured by 
cattle, deer, and birds, although in this locality it was 
not yet ripe. Scores of birds were sometimes found in 
one tree. 

The bark was only slightly roughened and was of a 
light colour, and on many trees meandering black lines 
extended along the underside of the limbs and branches, 
meeting and again separating, until they formed an 
irregular network, ramifying throughout the whole tree 
to the very topmost branches. These were earthen tun- 
nels made by a species of small flesh-coloured ant. The 
tunnels crumbled at a touch, and, from each opening at 
the sides of the exposed area, a legion of ants appeared. 
They did not immediately rush out, but the entire 

«4 192 -^ 

::::::;::*; NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS m::::::::: 

rao-o-ed opening of the tunnel was instantly lined with 
them standing partly inside, with the rear ends of their 
bodies pointing outward, and the venomous sting, with 
which each was furnished, working ominously. After 


a few minutes of quiet, the insects turned and advanced 
slowly, with inquiring, quivering antennae, and jaws 
wide open, ready for attack with either end of their 
bodies. A hundred or more walked thus idly about, as 
if on guard, while hosts of others brought pieces of 
earth and mould and beo^an to rebuild the broken tun- 

- «4 193 -^ •• 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"-" 

nel, adding, bit by bit, to each end until the covered 
runway was again continuous. 

If an ant was accidentally crushed, a strong odour 
of formic acid filled the air for many yards. No matter 
in what part of the tree, or at what particular point in 
the miles of tunnels a disturbance occurred, the ants 
poured out in myriads to repair the damage. They must 
have been greater in number than the very leaves on 
the trees. The tunnels led into the ground, where the 
main home of the colony Avas doubtless situated, and 
into which the pieces of leaves cut off in all parts of the 
tree were carried. A more terrible experience than 
havino' to climb a tree thus g-uarded could hardlv be 
imagined, and yet large black squirrels occasionally 
ran rapidly from branch to branch in these very trees. 
But it was unlikely that even they remained long in 
the vicinity of a damaged ant-tunnel. 

Certain species of birds were confined to a very 
limited area. Robins we saw nowhere except in these 
groves of wild figs, where they frequently shared a 
branch with some brilliant tropical bird — dwellers of 
lands far apart, associated for a time in the same tree. 
Here, too, we found the little Godman Euphonia in 
abundance — four inches of violet and yellow ; the male 
with his bright yellow cap, breast, and under j^arts, 
and his mate of a sombre greenish. The voice of the 
Euphonia is out of all proportion to his size — a loud 
but slow and hesitating ^;/<e-#//' / phe-ui! I 

<4: 194 ^ 

::::;::::*f NEAR the twin VOLCANOS m::::::::; 

Two other birds which had a very local distribution 
in this locality were the Diige Warbler and the Varied 
Bunting. The former were nervous little creatures, 
instantly bringing- to mind Maryland Yellows-throats 
in actions, notes, and choice of haunt, which latter was 
always the low willows and other bushes fringing the 
water. Here they were found in abundance, and with 
them the Varied Buntings in even greater numbers. 
Toward the end of our stay we frequently saw the male 
buntings display their beautiful blue, red, and purple 
hues and their "plum-coloured waistcoats" before 
their brown sparrow-like mates. The Duge Warbler is 
one of the most northern representatives of the genus 
BasUeuterus, which, in number of species, is as highly 
developed in Central and South America as is the 
warbler genus Dend7'oica in the United States. 

A Mexican boy, with the thoroughly Mexican name 
of Benito Torres, attached himself to our camp as 
general assistant, and proved to be honest and helpful. 
Every morning he walked from his native village, six 
miles away, with milk for our breakfast. I Avent off on 
some long trips with him and learned much of a Mex- 
ican boy's lore concerning wild things. He had the 
keenest scent of any person I have ever known. With 
a single sniff he could invariably tell whether the in- 
habitant of an armadillo's burrow Avas at home or not. 
This I proved, both positively and negatively, again 
and again. At climbing he was wonderfully expert. 

«4 195 ^ 


I believe he could " shin " up a thick marble column ! 
His toes would clutch the irreoularities in the bark, as 


does the foot of a squirrel, and the strange fruit or 
flower which I wanted would soon be in my hand. 

When we went on gunless hunting trips at night, for 
the purpose of watching the wild creatures, he taught me 
«4 196 |» 


the singularly musical yodel, which the Mexican Indian 
uses in attracting the curiosity of deer and other ani- 
mals. Once we were carefully stalking a noise — it was 
too dark to distinguish anything ten feet away — when 
Benito softly gave the call. For a moment there was 
silence, then to our surprise an answer came back and 
there stepped into view an Indian with an old-fashioned 
huge-bore gun, which he said, in a half-frightened 
way, he had been just about to fire in our direction, 
thinking that we were the deer he was after. Thus this 
yodel of the Mexican serves two purposes. It attracts 
the attention of the wild animal without startling it, and 
it also is used to let hunters know Avhether man or beast 
is near, thus avoiding the danger of shooting a man 
by mistake. Occasionally in our tents at night we heard 
this musical yodel echoing over the trail ! If after a 
moment there came an answering call, then we knew 
that man had met man on the lonely mountain trail ; 
but if to the call no answering cry came, then in the 
darkness some wild creature stood, every sense on the 
alert, every muscle held tense, and great wide eyes star- 
ing out in the night to find the cause of this strangely 
soft yet penetrating cry. 

It was on one of these trips, when Benito was beat- 
ing a clump of underbrush, sending lizards and birds 
scurrying out, that three giant goatsuckers sailed out 
and flapped blindly past. They were whip-poor-wills 
twice magnified. We flushed them several times and 
«4 197 ^ 

:::::::::*^ TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*::::::::: 

then they flew oft' through the woods and we could not 
find them again. This was my only meeting" with the 
great Mexican Goatsucker. Poor Benito ! Honest and 
willing to a degree, his ignorance was pitiful. Imper- 
fect Spanish scholar that I was, I soon mastered most 
of his vocabulary. One Avord with him would stand 
for a score of meanings, more or less related, the 
significance eked out by some eloquent and suggestive 
gesture. His sign language always saved him extra 
words, and it needed no translation. 


It was in a orove of wild fisf-trees that I first saw 
a Mexican Motmot, one of the most interesting and 
characteristic of the birds of the tierra caJlente, and 
perhaps the most beautifully coloured of all the birds 
we saw in Mexico. One's first impression of a Motmot, 
as seen at a distance, is of a large-headed, brown and 
greenish bird, with a broad bar of black on the head. 
We were fortunate enough to be able to study one 
of these birds in our very camp. With a lucky shot 
I stunned one with a small-calibre shot-cartridge. The 
bird soon recovered and remained about the camp, re- 
taining its full liberty, feeding upon scraps of meat, or 
occasionally catching insects for itself. Its favourite 
perch was a branch of a flowering clavillina, to which 
one end of the ridge-pole of our tent was tied. Here 
day after day it unconsciously posed before the camera, 

<4- 198 -^ 

:::::::::*f NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS ;*::;::;::: 

the only matter for regTet being" that its exquisite 
colouring, which showed so beautifully on the ground 
glass, must be lost on the negative. 

The bill of the Motmot is large and deeply toothed 
or serrated on each edge, and Avhen angry the bird took 
firm hold of one's fino-er and suffered itself to be 
carried dangling, for several yards, before flying off. 
The crown of the head and neck are bright cinnamon, 
shadins: into a beautiful o-rass-g-reen on the back and 
wings. The large, soft, brown eyes are surrounded 
by a circle of feathers, very small, circular, and black 
in colour. Back of the eye is a broad tuft of black, 
banded above and below with beautiful blue. The 
breast is a most delicate emerald green, shot with pale 
blue, while exactly in the centre is a conspicuous, black, 
feathery pendant, or tuft, similar to the eye-tufts. 

But the most remarkable characteristic of the bird 
is its long tail, which is greenish blue in colour, while 
the two central tail-feathers, longer than the others, 
are bare of barbs for about an inch of their lenoth, 
each feather endinof in a full-vaned racket. The strano-e 
tiling about this ornament is the fact that it is produced 
by the bird itself. When the young birds attain their 
full plumage, the elongated pair of feathers in the tail 
are perfect from base to tip. Guided apparently by 
some instinct, each Motmot begins to pick and pick at 
these feathers, tearing off a few barbs at a time with 
its bill. This is kept up until the tail is in the condition 

«4 199 #* 


which is shown in the photograph, and at each succeed- 
ing moult the process is repeated. 

This symmetrical denudation of the tail-feathers 
might he explained as a remarkahle attempt at aesthetic 
ornamentation on the part of the male to make himself 
more beautiful in the eyes of the female ; but unfortun- 


- <^ 200 #* 

^•::::":C NEAR the twin volcanos ^rnn^^ 


ately for this theory, the habit is as strong- in the one 
sex as in the other. When the feathers grow out anew, 
although the barbs are all present, yet the vane at this 
point is narrower than elsewhere, perhaps showing that 
the continual exercise of this habit for generation after 
generation is in some way having an hereditary effect. 
But we cannot be at all sure about this ; the inheritance 
of acquired characters is too unproved a theory to war- 
rant any such assertion. The real cause of the habit 
would be a most interestino- one to solve. In some of 
the birds which we saw the process had just begun, only 
a few barbs being- torn away. 

^ 201 #» 


The day on which I found my first Motmot was very 
Avarm and sultry, and I was glad of the shade of an 
acacia. A Black-throated Gray and a Pileolated Warbler 
were fearlessly feeding within a few feet, snatching 
tiny insects from the blue flowers which covered the 

Every green and gold feather on the body of the little 
Pileolated was unruffled, and his tiny monk's cap shone 
in the sunlight like burnished jet. My glance slipped 
past him, and there sitting motionless was a Motmot. 
I had often wondered, when I saw mounted specimens 
in museums, with what special immunity from danger 
these birds were blessed, their beautiful colouring would 
seem to be such a startlino- advertisement of the bird's 
whereabouts. But in reality the very diversity in hue 
is their protection, and they merge perfectly into their 
environment of green foliag-e and brio-ht sunlio-ht. 
Although these birds measure fully a foot from head 
to tail, yet it is not their size but their voice which 
usually betrays them. This is a most startling utterance ; 
several harsh churrs ! followed by three distinct, 
beautifully liquid notes ; but even when this was heard 
near at hand, little clew was given as to the bird's 
whereabouts, for the tones were so loud and had such 
ventriloquial power that they seemed to come from 
all directions at once. No sound that I heard them 
utter could possibly be construed into the syllables 

-s^ 202 ^ 

:::::::::^; NEAR THE TWIN VOLCANOS m::::::::: 

Motmots are not shy, but will permit one to approach 
quite closely before taking a short flight to a neigh- 
bouring tree or bush. Just before they fly they usually 
o-ive utterance to a low chuck ! chuck ! — evidently an 
alarm-note. This was the common sound uttered by 
my tame bird when I attempted to catch it. What 
betrays a Motmot more surely than its colours or even 
its voice is the curious pendulum motion of its tail — 
from side to side, and, more rarely, up and down. 
When the bird blends so perfectly with its surround- 
ings that the eye fails to locate it, the horizontal swing 
of its tail marks it out. This is not a true pendulum 
motion, as the tail snaps to the highest point, and is 
held there for a moment before being jerked to the 
opposite side. 

Although the feet of the Motmot are weak and 
adapted only for perching and its usual method of feed- 
ing is to catch insects upon the wing, yet more than 
once, while watching these birds, I saw them fly to 
the ground and scratch awkwardly, picking up food 
after each disturbance of the leaves. There was still 
another habit which I should dismiss as an individual 
freak, except for the fact that it was observed in three 
diiferent birds. These particular Motmots v;ere not 
aware of my presence, and after feeding for a time, 
they flew to an open sunny spot, flung themselves flat 
upon their backs and, spreading their wings, enjoyed 
a sun bath. The only other bird which I ever knew thus 

«4 203 ^ 

::;::::::=»; TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO a^:::"-::: 

voluntarily to invert itself was a Condor, and that took 
place in captivity. 

Like their distant cousins the kingfishers, these 
birds bore a tunnel into a vertical bank and make their 
nest at the end, six or eight feet within the dark earth. 
The pure beauty of the water-lily is conceived in the 
filthy, noisome mud at the bottom of the pond, and 
the delicate hues of the Motmot are acquired in a 
black, ill-smelling, underground hole. 

We shall ever regret not seeing these birds during 
the period of nesting, but as with almost all other birds 
in this country that occurs later in the year. One must 
visit Mexico in the spring to study the birds at the 
most interesting of all times — the breeding-season. 





ilTHIN fifty paces of our tents a spring rose 
amono- the rocks and trickled over a level 
strip of sand and through low bushes, 
meandering so slowly that it filled several 
broad shallow pools, before filtering almost impercept- 
ibly into the rushing rlo. 

Here during the first few nights of our stay, Mex- 
ican Deer came in numbers to drink, but when the 
smoke of the dying embers of our fire began to taint 
the air, these timid creatures frequented another pool 
a few yards farther downstream — out of sight around 
a bend. In broad daylight we surprised a soft-coated 
doe — a slender, graceful creature whose white tail 
flashed up at sight of us. With one mighty bound, 
she half spanned the stream and sank out of sight in 
the water. Up and swimming in an instant, the deer 
surged ahead, and, when just about to be dragged by 
the swift water into the foaming rapids, she gained 
a foothold, staggered against the current, and dashed 
off into the jungle. 

The series of small pools was a favourite drinking 
and bathing place for many interesting wild creatures. 

«4 205 ^ 

:::::::::^x TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*'•""-" 

Here came the brilliant tanagers — neither the Louisi- 
ana nor the Hepatic nor the Cooper, which we had 
expected to find, but the same Summer Tanager whose 
flaming red form is so connnon in that place so be- 
loved of birds, — and some of us, — an old-fashioned 
Virginia garden. In the cool pools, a quartet of these 
birds — two scarlet, two green — splashed and fluttered 
each morning. The green-garbed females then led the 
way to some high, sunlit tree where each feather was 
preened and dried and the living spots of flame, from 
very joy of life, gave utterance to their liquid double 

Sometimes the Mexican Pileated Woodpeckers de- 
serted their wild figs and came in great swinging loops 
of red, white, and black for a brief drink at these magic 
pools. Never before had I seen a member of this 
sturdy race of woodpeckers on the ground. How they 
do pound the sounding-boards which they find ready 
to hand, fashioned by the lightning and seasoned by 
the weather ! Their heads vibrate until their scarlet 
head-plumes become a ruddy blur, and the reverber- 
ating roll comes clear and crisp. Their notes are 
loud and varied, and when suspicious of danger, their 
calls are like the excited scolding of Red Squirrels — 
though much louder. They delight to swing on the 
slender, uplifted arms of the organ cactus, leaning 
far back from their firm support of feet and stiff tail- 

«4 206 ^ 

::::::::3K THE MAGIC POOLS Is:::::::: 

111 one of the lower pools was a string of frogs' eggs 
— a black-beaded cord of gelatine, five or six feet in 
length. One day a large tadpole swam lazily along near 
the shallow edoe nibblinof at the g-reen scum. A lizard 
jumped at him, bit ott* a good section of tail, and 
disappeared among the rocks. The shock seemed to 
paralyze or kill the tadpole at once, and, wrong side up, 
it floated along with the current. Tiny fish snatched 
at it, white-spotted water-beetles danced around and 
around it, green water-boatmen glided to it, but on 
went the unfortunate tadpole. Caught in an eddy for 
an instant, a giant claret-coloured mud wasp tried to 
clutch it, but failed. Onward a few feet it rushed and 
came to rest in a second pool, where it whirled about 
for the last time, for a Black Phoebe darted like light- 
ning upon it, snatched it from the water without wet- 
ting a feather, and went back to his rocky perch, flirt- 
in o- his tail with satisfaction. 

A Mexican tadpole must needs indeed be wary if he 
wishes to live and grow up, like his parents, to sit upon 
the brook's edge in the pale moonlight and thrum the 
great bleating roars, which resound with a heavy re- 
verberating rhythm from wall to wall of the harranca. 


This is a thirsty land and the pools of sweet water 
are the drinking-places, not only of deer, raccoons, 
birds, and other creatures of fur and feathers, but in- 
o^ 207 -^ 


sects of all orders flock to the muddy edges. Flowers 
are scarce, and if nectar is not to be had, why, clear 
volcano water is not a bad substitute. 

In the morning', when the sun began to warm the 
lower air of the barranca, little yellow and black but- 
terflies [marijjositas was the poetic name by which 
our Mexican cook knew these tiny insects), and many 
brown-winged, crook-antennsed skippers came, together 
with hosts of wee lavender-wings. One small species 
had long filamentous tails to the hind wdngs, which 
were kept constantly in motion, up and down, when 
the butterfly was otherwise quiet, with its wings closed 
tooether above the back. The remainder of the insect 
was of a dull hue, but these bright orange tails were 
visible for fifteen or twenty feet, looking (the simile 
was again and again brought to mind) like an ant with 
immensely large head and body, wriggling violently 
about in one place. Such an illusion would seem of no 
possible advantage to the insect. Indeed I could never 
discover what saved these butterflies from instant detec- 
tion and attack on the part of the many flycatchers. 

When the full heat of midday started cracks in the 
parched pool edges, great white and yellow fellows 
would float lazily down from the tree-tops, drift across 
the water, and alight on a mud hillock. Their six legs 
carried them to the damp dark earth and here they un- 
coiled their watch-spring tongues and drew up the cool 
moisture. So greedily did they imbibe that one could 

*4 208 -^ - 

::::::::ae THE MAGIC POOLS sfe::::;::: 

walk up to them and pick them from their places, while 
at other times these very butterflies would not come 
within many yards of our net. 

The under side of the wings of these insects was 
a pale pea-green ; while above, one species {Anteos 
mcerula) was of a delicate yellow-green, and a second 
species (^;i^eos clcmnde) was whitish with a bold stain 
of the richest, warmest orange. When these latter 
alighted, their wings snapped together, and what a 
moment before was a conspicuous span of colour was 
now but a faded greenish leaf fallen to the pool's edge. 

With these, in the heat of the day, came rarely beau- 
tiful butterflies of jet, shot with rich purple. Only 
a few were seen and these were wary and alert. Their 
wings were never still. When they alighted for a mo- 
ment's sip beside the pool, their legs were bent, their 
wings nervously a-quiver, ready for instant flight. 
A Black Phcebe once dashed at one with a lightning 
swoop, but the motion of the bird was leisure itself 
compared to the swift escape of the insect. The only 
way to capture one of them was to stalk it carefully, 
creeping behind rock and bush, and swooping with the 
net a full yard beyond the insect. Even then the chances 
w^ere always in favour of the butterfly. 

Mud wasps — yellow, red, and white — worked all 
day gathering tiny pellets of the stream-refined clay, 
bearing them aloft to plaster tree or rock with egg- 
protecting tunnels ; undoing, in their small way, the 

-o^ 209 -^ 

::::::::»v TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"'"- 

work of the elements. Red-barred tiger beetles flew 
and scampered about, grotesque toad-hoppers made 
flying leaps from the nearest trees to the water. 

These and many other insects had their favourite 
hour at the Magic Pools, and when the afternoon Avaned 
their place was taken by ever-changing hosts of other 
thirsty ones. When the great shadow leaped the brook 
and began to climb the opposite slope, the wood-sprites 
descended from the sweet-flowered acacias. First, those 
which, in habit like Catocala Moths, loved the trunks 
of rough-barked trees. Very different from the giant 
Yellows, they always kept their wings spread. Their 
life-secret, which must ever be hid from the eyes of 
the world, is the light gray splashing of their under 
wings. To show this were to court death quickly. So 
with low-curved wings they sailed in an even slope to 
the mud, upon which they flattened their lichen-hued 
pinions. When their thirst was quenched there was no 
dallying. With three or four quick flaps they hurled 
themselves at the trunk of the nearest fig-tree and van- 
ished. During this swift return flight, at each move- 
ment of the wings, a sharp crackling sound was made. 

Verily instinct is not a thing at which to scoff. 
Here was a fragile insect just hatched from its inert 
chrysalis. It saw other butterflies fluttering slowly 
past, alighting at the edge of the water and waving 
their wdngs in enjoyment of the cooling drink. Why 
should it not do likewise ? Why should it, unlike them, 

<4 210 #«• 

::::::::sk£ THE MAGIC POOLS m""-" 

sail steadily from tree to pool, snatch a proboscisful of 
the water, and dash frantically back to the roughened 
bark, there to cling motionless with flat pressed wings, 
until its thirst calls it again to the pool ? How could 
it know all this ? How could such philosophy be passed 
on, through egg and worm and chrysalis, to its tiny 
thread of nerve-stuff? We asked in vain, and the great 
fio'-tree rustled its leaves in the wind and seemed to 
close protectingly around the insect which had flown, 
so full of trust, to its bark. These butterflies {Agero- 
nia atlantls) were very abundant in certain places at the 
edge of the jungle, fluttering in the air a moment and 
then snapping back, flat to the trunks of trees as if 
governed by some form of magnetism which they were 
powerless to resist. 

Another wood-haunting species of butterfly ( Victor- 
ina stelenes) defied detection even when we knew to 
a certainty its position to within a few inches. Its wings 
were dark brown, blotched with large ovals, circles, 
and irregular figures of transparent green. When it 
alighted, it held its wings flat and vanished from 
sight, hidden by the myriad spots of sunshine and 
shadow all about it, which the markings on its wings 
so exactly simulated. 


However continuous and varied the succession of 
thirsty wild creatures all through the day; however 

«4 211 #* 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO Jfe-""" 

rarely or frequently any species haunted the barranca 
near our camp, one at least seemed never absent. 
Probably every step or motion we made — from early 
morning to the last tying of the tent flap at night — 
was watched by the omnipresent eyes of a vulture, 
either near at hand or a mile above the barranca wall. 
With our most powerful glasses we sometimes detected 
in the blue heavens a tiny black mote, which the naked 
eye could not distinguish. And yet to such a bird our 
every motion was doubtless visible. At such a height 
the barranca abyss must be like a mud crack near the 
pools ; we, tinier than the lesser insects. No realistic 
picture of this country should ever lack a black form, 
high in the sky, soaring incomparably with wide- 
extended primaries, clutching ever at the empty air. 

When nearer, the vultures seemed hardly birds, so 
silent and fearless were they. The Caracaras, which 
associated Avith them, were more wary and given to 
occasional screams. But the buzzards, flying near, 
whether black or red-headed, only peered silently at 
us, their whistling wings passing close overhead Avhen 
the report of our gun brought to them hope of some 
slain bird, lost or fallen out of our reach. Fifty times 
they sailed onward, disappointed. The fifty-first time 
they came as quickly, peered as eagerly. Hunger must 
often pinch them sorely, living things are so abundant, 
dead creatures so seldom seen. When we set traps for 
opossums or raccoons, unless carefully concealed, it was 

«4 2b2 ^ 

::::::::3E THE MAGIC POOLS B^""-" 

more than likely that the next day a coughing, unsav- 
oury vulture had devoured the bait and was waiting 
patiently to be set free. 

One day at the edge of the stream, I undertook to 
prepare an armadillo for the pot. His tough skin 
made it a rather difficult and eng'rossing' task and for 
some twenty minutes I did not look up from my work. 
While on my way to the water I had thoughtlessly 
noticed a single black speck high up overhead, so usual 
a sight that I hardly remembered it. When at last 
I rose from my completed work and painfully stretched 
my cramped limbs, every dead tree and conspicuous 
boulder within a large area held its complement of 
vultures — Black and Turkey. It was most uncanny. 
Their skinny necks stretched out toward me ; nearly 
a hundred red and ebony heads peered through leaves 
and over rocks and dead limbs, forming a ring of 
watchful ghouls. Overhead the sky was quartered in 
every direction by scores of others. Within a few 
minutes all these birds had come, each guided by the 
suggestive descent of some brother vulture, who in 
turn had well interpreted his neighbour's actions. All 
were waiting patiently for the expected feast. And 
lohat a feast ! It was the " loaves and fishes " over 
again without any chance for a miracle. Nearly two 
hundred birds — all told — as large as turkeys were 
eagerly waiting for the moment when I should leave to 
them the remains of one small armadillo ! 

<i- 213 ^ 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B-""""' 

It is strange that this host of famished ones never 
gets up courage enough to attack living creatures of 
any size. We once observed a half-hearted attempt 
upon an Iguana. The vultures often swoop close to 
these lizards as they lie basking in the sun, but this 
particular vulture alighted close by and made an ugly 
rush at the prostrate reptile — hissing and pecking at 
him, The Iguana did not drop at once, but turned 
tail, not to run, however, but evidently to bring this 
member into play, and a single fell swoop of this mus- 
cular appendage knocked the feet of the vulture from 
under him and he flew off hissing with disappointment, 
while the Iguana dived to the bushes below and sought 
his hole. 


The most interestino" time to watch the Maofic Pools 
was toward late afternoon, when our shadow dial had 
climbed well up and only the higher parts of the cliff 
still glowed with the sun's rays. The Iguanas which had 
been basking high among the branches now clambered 
down or voluntarily pitched themselves head first into 
the underbrush. When they are flattened out close to 
a branch, it is almost impossible to detect them, not 
only on account of their marvellous likeness to the mot- 
tled bark, but because of their habit of slowly slipping 
to one side or the other, keeping the branch always 
between you and themselves. If we sat quiet and sent 

- «4 214 #* 

::::::::3k£ THE MAGIC POOLS m::::::::: 

the Mexican to the other side of the tree, the Iguanas 
would forget our presence and think only of the mov- 
ing figure beneath them. As the boy passed to the 
other side, a dozen shapeless forms would revolve slowly 
upon the branches toward us. 

It was startling, to say the least, when watching for 
the first arrivals of the evening, to see a huge black 
apparition shoot through the air, limbs and toes wide 
stretched, to land with a crashing flop into some thick 
bush. No wonder Pterodactyls and birds evolved early 
from an ancient reptilian stem, if such recklessness 
inspired them ; such trust in a medium through which 
they must, at first, have fallen with as leaden a drop as 
did these Iguanas ! 

Cormorants and teal now^ at the end of day flew 
downstream with steady rapid wing-beats and the swal- 
lows disappeared suddenly, going early to roost. The 
last butterfly and wasp reluctantly left the pools, 
driven by the cool breeze which began to drift down 
with the stream from the cold mountain-tops. The 
quaver of trogons w^as heard, coming from the upper 
arroyo to drink and then to roost in the feathery masses 
of downy, white clematis. Canyon Wrens quenched 
their thirst and the cool water cleared their throats for 
a few minutes of sleepy, silvery notes — the merest hint 
of next morning's chorus. 

The first bat flitted past and — strange custom for 
such creatures — clambered down a steep rock and 

«4 215 I* 

:::::::::C TWO bird- lovers in MEXICO ;*::::::::: 

lapjjed eagerly at the little pool. From the top of the 
rock he then took a flying drop and was olt' on his 
night's hunt. 

The light had now lessened considerably, and, half 
concealed in a little hollow among the boulders, we 
were not observed by any of the creatures which passed 
to the water. Almost at the same minute each evening 
doves began to drop down and drink — long and 
thirstily — dove-fashion. Monrning and White-fronted 
Doves whistled by ns in hundreds, drank and flew on 
past the tents up the arroyo to some secluded roosting- 
place. During the day these doves were scattered 
abundantly all over the surrounding uplands, feeding 
on berries and fruits. They were fat and tender and 
formed our staple diet, being always easy to obtain and 
quickly prepared. 

Shortly after the last bird straggled past, there arose, 
from some quite indeterminate direction, a low, sooth- 
ing monotone ; a sound so indefinable, so minor a chord 
in Nature's harmony that it escaped the ear at first. 
Soon it became more distinct — a double throb could 
be distinguished. It seemed to come from a solitary 
dead tree which was silhouetted against a certain spot 
over the barranca wall, where the moon would soon 
rise. " Whip-unll ! lohip-will f wkip-icill ! " we inter- 
preted it. But the resemblance to the note of our 
Northern bird of the nio^ht was but slio-ht. Soon a 
something appeared from the dusk and a patch of black 

«4 216 ^ 

:::::::::^ THE MAGIC POOLS m::::::::: 

rested upon a stone where nothing was before. It 
seemed rat-hke, and crept slowly toward the water, at 
the edge of which it stopped and drank. Then it took 
to wino' and flew in low circles back and forth. This 


was the author of the mysterious monotone, which even- 
ino' after evening: had held our attention and excited 
our curiosity. And even when we had secured a speci- 
men and learned the name of the bird, it was but to 
unfold another mystery. It was the Ridgway Whip- 
poor-will, the second of its kind ever discovered. The 
first was observed several hundred miles south of our 

-4 217 ^ 

:::::::::*^ TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-"."" 

camp, and of its nest and eggs and wanderings nothing 
is known. This bird which came so famiHarly to drink 
at the pools was once joined by its mate — presnmably 
— and the two hawked together over the low rocky 
ground, engulfing unfortunate gnats and moths. More 
abundant, but absolutely silent, the Mexican Whip-poor- 
wills haunted the bushes, beating- the insects from their 
tops and snatching them as they took to flight. 


A Ring-tailed Cat squealed from the entrance of its 
cave somewhere up among the dense shadows on the 
cliff wall, and presently the little animal leaped to some 
overhanging tree and scrambled down to level ground. 
This creature long remained a mystery to us. 

By obstructing and turning aside the gentle flow 
of the spring, the soft, smooth, muddy floor of one 
of the pools was each evening uncovered, and on this 
telltale mirror of earth the animals which passed in 
the night, on their way to drink, registered their every 
movement. Raccoons and deer we easily recognized, 
but several sizes of true bear-like palms confused us. 
We knew also that no coyotes or Mexican dogs were 
thereabouts, although here were tracks to put our 
knowledge to naught. 

By tempting with the skinned bodies of birds and 
with bits of refuse food placed on a certain boulder, 
we gradually w^on the confidence of all the more wary 

4 218 ^ 

:;::::::ag: THE MAGIC POOLS as:::::::: 

creatures of the night, but we did not attempt to ob- 
serve them until, for some time, they had drawn upon 
these supphes. Then we set ourselves to watch. 

Shrill little squeals have often wakened us at nig-lit, 
and now the little black and white creature which is 
making its way so stealthily through the leaves gives 
utterance to this strange cry. The moonlight is bright 


and every detail is plain, as the animal leaves the 
shadows of the underbrush. 

Its motions are quick and cat-like, its ears small and 

<i- 2\9 -^ 

;::::::::*; TWO bird-lovers in MEXICO B---' 

erect, surmounting a tiny face like that of some little 
gnome of the woods. Mouth and nose are pointed, 
eyes large and lustrous, glowing round and deep in 
the pale light. But what the gorgeous train of 
feathers is to the peacock, its tail is to the Ring- 
tailed Cat. The creature stands half crouching, listen- 
ing to all the night sounds, when suddenly its tail 
appears, — no hare opossum-like affair, nor even like 
the more fluffy appendage of a raccoon, but a great 
filmy mass, ringed white and black, curling and furling 
gracefully over and around the little animal. Now the 
hairs lie close and the tail narrows, again it expands 
and fluffs out larger in diameter than the entire body 
of the little cat. 

Here the Ring- tailed Cat, or Sassarisciis, — for he 
seems to have no generally accepted common name, — - 
comes and goes, taking bits of meat to his family 
somewhere up among the rocky cliffs. He is a full- 
grown animal and yet his tiny face has a wistful, almost 
infantile expression. How interesting must be the baby 
Ringtails ! But the innocent expression of these little 
fellows is only skin deep. Great is the havoc they work 
among the sleeping doves and other birds which roost 
near by. They are somewhat like the raccoons, but are 
much more active and cat-like. Among the branches 
they are at home and can run up a tree-trunk like a 
squirrel. A strange habit is that, like the Iguanas, 
they sometimes leap from high limbs, crashing down 

- *# 220 #» 

::::::::^ THE MAGIC POOLS 3^;;:::::: 

among" the dense underbrush. The first few times this 
happened near our tents, we looked out, fully expect- 
ing to see that the animal which had leaped to our 
camp niche, was as large as a Jaguar. 

The Ring-tailed Bassariscus is interesting on ac- 
es o 

count of its relations to the raccoons. A study of its 
skeleton shows that it is almost identical with certain 
fossil dog-like creatures which lived during the geo- 
logical age known as the Oligocene, perhaps over a 
million years ago. These animals of ancient-days were 
the direct ancestors of the modern raccoons. So it was 
a hint of the far-distant past which squealed and 
leaped about our tent at night. Through all the cen- 
turies, this little animal has preserved the structure of 
its ancestors, changing but little down to the present 

It was a rather odd fact that all the creatures which 
inhabited the caves of the ljarrancai< had tails ringed 
white and black ; — the upturned tails of the Canyon 
Wrens, the coons' tails, the owls', and the remarkable 
appendages of the Ring-tailed Cats. 

Within a few days after our tents were pitched, they 
were accepted by the w^ild creatures as perfectly nat- 
ural additions to their little world — perhaps an up- 
heaval of whitish volcano stuff. At any rate they voted 
the canvas roofs great fun, and the curious creatures 
within as harmless. The moonlight shone through the 
tent upon us, sharply silhouetting every branch and 

«4 221 #* 

::::;::::C TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO M^::::::." 

leaf. Wild mice ran and squeaked about the edges of 
the tent, holding an orgy over the supper crumbs. 
Some great night insect would come with a buzz and 
a thud against the slojDing top, and crawl clumsily to 
the ridge, from which he would take heavy flight. 
Every leg and claw was distinct in his shadow silhouette, 
as he climbed upward. Now a long-drawn squeak 
came, and the tent shook as a little mouse-like form 
alighted on the apex. These flying- squirrels, or leap- 
ing-mice, — for we never succeeded in getting a good 
look at them, — must miss the smooth tent slope down 
which they so loved to slide. To us, their frolic 
showed a dark, sprawling, shadow-mass gliding swiftly 
down the tent roof, and shooting off down the hill- 

What a difference results from the various ways of 
looking at things in this world ! To us, our camp was 
an ideal little home, comfortable and all-sufficing. 
The sixteenth of an inch of canvas wall shut out 
the great world, or rather shut a tiny portion of it 
in, and behold, all wildness vanished ! This little 
rooty space — ten by twelve feet — might have been 
trodden by us for years, and by our ancestors for 
generations, so familiar did it seem after a week's 
inhabitance. But to the squirrels, or mice, or what- 
ever they were, here was a most fascinating " chute," 
— a run, jump, and slide, — which ended in a veri- 
table paradise of biscuit crumbs. 

- <i 222 -^ - 

::::::::ae THE MAGIC POOLS M^izz 


The most noisy of all the creatures which visited us 
by night were the armadillos. Skunk-like, they deemed 
themselves well protected, albeit in another fashion, 
and they scuttled through the bushes and vines with 
no precautions for silence. A wild steer could make 
his way through thick cover with less commotion than 
could one of these armoured pigs — porcine in the taste 
of their flesh and in their actions and their snout, if 
not in nomenclature. 

Again and again, while coming to camp at night or 
in the dusk of early morning, a something would pass 
and vanish from our path. At first it seemed like a 
momentary flicker of an eye muscle or a trick of the 
moonlight. But before long we realized that there 
were wild creatures, — of large size, too, — which 
moved like shadows, too swiftly, too silently, too 
much the pale hue of the moonlight, for our senses 
to follow and distinguish. " Ullos son los animos de 
los miierfos,'' and the Mexican shivered at the thought. 
But we were incredulous. We determined to see more 
of these " spirits of the arroyo's dead," if such things 

So night after night we watched, and night after 
night revealed nothing. Yet, if we dozed but a moment, 
or if a clumsy armadillo drew away our attention, the 
bait we had placed was gone — vanished. And next 
day Ricardo shrugged his shoulders and his " Quien 

«4 223 ^ 


sabe I " had more of an I-told-you-so accent than ever. 
But sometimes the faintest of dog-Hke tracks remained 
in the sand at morning. 

As with many mysteries in Nature it was when we 
ceased to think of it that it was solved. One evening, 
during a week Avhen the moonhoht made useless our 
candle-lanterns, and the trees and bushes and rocks 
were enveloped in the pale fairy light from the lumin- 
ary which seemed suspended so close over the bar- 
7'ancas summit, we found the solution to our mystery. 
The air seemed too full of light to stir — we in the 
North do not know what real moonlight is. In the 
silence I could count each beat of my heart, and soon 
the rhythm increased in volume and, without abrupt- 
ness or knowledge of the change, I was listening to 
the beat-beat-beat-beat of the Ridgway Whip-poor- 

The spell of the silent night, the rise and fall of the 
volcano's fire, and the eternal monotone of the bird 
held me spell-bound, until my body seemed but part of 
the quiet whole. Never have I stood so still in my life. 
Every nerve and muscle seemed at rest. Instead of 
a novel sensation, it seemed as if I had stood there for 
ages. Like Atlas, there would soon spring up trees 
between my feet. 

Before me was the grayish-white sandy bed of the 
arroyo, wdth its scattered boulders, shadow less because 
of the zenith moon. The misty path reflected a cool, 

<^. 2^24 #» 

:::::;::3K THE MAGIC POOLS ^:::::::: 

velvety light. The texture of the sand seemed soft and 

Suddenly, fifty feet away, a spot of sand seemed to 
shift and move and How along, winding, sinuous as a 
snake, around the boulders. Only my mind started, alert 
at the sight. My body was as immovable as the rocks. I 
knew that this was no anhmo ; the mystery, intangible, 
yet not disdaining a nightly portion of the food spread 
for it. 

Not until the something came many feet nearer did 
my eyes make out the outlines of a Gray Fox. No more 
wonderful resemblance ever existed between an ani- 
mal and its surroundings. The ghostly creature moved 
so close to the ground that it apparently cast no 
shadow. From head to tail, not a distinguishing tint or 
mark was visible, — all gray, gray, — a sand w raith 
in fox form. Suddenly, from nowhere, a great vulture 
swooped low over the sand. What could ever escape 
his eye ! And when the swish of his wangs and his 
shadow, blacker than himself, had passed, the fox was 
gone, — as if it had melted to nothing or sunk into 
the sand. 

Five minutes passed, the fox moved, and my eyes 
ao^ain found him. He o-lided to the remains of our veni- 
son supper, stopped, looked straight at me and knew 
me for what I was. Back on his trail he turned, and 
glided swiftly from view into the darkness of the arroyo. 
Something drew my head around and there, behind the 

«4 225 -^ 


camp, a brother fox, with a mouthful of provender, was 
stealing noiselessly up a loose gravel-bank into thick 
cover. With any other creature the bank would have 
given way, sending down a shower of sand and dried 
leaves. In the morning a few dog-padded prints veri- 
fied my vision of the preceding night, but a breath of 
air soon blew the light sand into the tracks — so care- 
fully does Nature protect her children. And thus was 
solved the mystery of the mud tracks near the pools. 

Nothing but a fox after all ! Oh, but such a fox ! 
As different from our Reynard of the North as a lithe 
greyhound is from a bungling terrier. And when we 
captured one, he proved to be the Guatemalan Silver- 
gray Fox, and examined by daylight, hoAv different 
he seemed — slinking, cowering, trembling, begging 
with fearful eyes for the moment when we should set 
him free again. For what was his skin to us compared 
to seeing the convulsive leap of joy with which he 
returned to his life of wild freedom ! 

The colour of this fox in the broad light of day 
was very different from what we had supposed it to 
be. A grizzled silvery gray was the predominant hue, 
but in the pale, all-absorbing moonlight, no hint of 
the deep rufous or the black markings was ever to be 

Thus, little by little, we came to know the wild 
kindred which shared this harranca with us ; like 
us, drinking of its waters, gazing at the soaring of 

«# 226 #> 

::::::::3e: THE MAGIC POOLS vfe""-" 

the vultures, listening to the rumblings of Colima and 
watching its smoke and flame ; hearing the hundred 
voices of the dawn, the evening, and the night. 

" } 

*^ t^. 




•E learned that the dried-up stream-bed, at 
whose junction with the ha7Tanca stream 
we camped, was known by the sinister 
name of ^l Arroyo del 3Iuerte, — The 
Dry Stream of Death, — and the name was well given ; 
not, however, because of any lack of life along its 
sinuous course, even during this dry season of the 
year. In years past, its winding stream-bed was much 
used as a short-cut trail, and mule-trains of fifty and 
a hundred animals often passed and re2)assed through 
it. At the beginning of the rainy season, somewhere 
up on the volcano's slope the water would collect, 
held back by debris, until the great weight broke all 
barriers and the flood poured, like an avalanche, do^^'n 
the arroi/o, carrying away men and animals, like mere 
chips in its seething waters. Hence the appellation 
del Muerte. 

But the rainy season was yet far off, and we found 
the recesses and dark defiles of this dry waterway a 
most delightful place for exploration. After the summer 
rains cease, the annual torrent dwindles to a mere 
trickle, and even this at last filters through the porous 

«4 228 ^ 

:::::::::)3g; ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH j»::::::::: 

sand. No sooner has the water disappeared than the 
life of the neighbouring banks and of the jungle, 
stretching back on each side, begins to encroach on the 
water-worn trail, and at the time of our visit plants 
have sprung up, flowers bloomed, and the creatures 
of the wood and air use it as a convenient path to the 
water in the oTeat barranca. 

The lower part of the arroyo is wide and the sides 
slope gently outward, but a little distance farther up 
it makes a sharp bend and narrows quickly ; from there 
onward its dark recesses are luxuriant with vegetation, 
isolated from the outside world, and greatly beloved 
by the wald creatures. 

In the lower reaches of the arroyo we saw for the 
first time a gray and black bird which has no common 
name but was most interesting to us as being the 
first member, that we had seen, of the great tropical 
family Cotingidm. To this family belong birds noted 
for their marvellous colours, crests, or voices, such as the 
Cock-of-the-rock, the Umbrella-bird, and the Bell-bird. 
This Frog-bird, as we nicknamed him, had none of 
these characteristics to distinguish him, although his 
plumage was i-ather attractive — a pearl-gray body and 
tip of tail, with black flight feathers, tail, and face. 
The female, however, had no black on the head. We 
may call it the Gray-headed Tityra {Tityra jyer sonata 
grlseiceios). The broad bill, naked skin on part of the 
face, clumsy body, and hoarse croaking were the reasons 

<4 229 |» 

:::::l"::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO jgEC."".:::: 

for our comparing these birds to batrachians. These, 
Hke so many other birds in this country, were always 
seen in pairs. 

Tropical foliage cannot endure the heat of the sun 
on these dry, sloping arroyo walls, and if w^e climbed 
to the top, we passed only mesquite and cactus — the 
broad-leafed nopal and the stately organ, or candel- 
abra cactus. The latter sometimes grow to a great 
height, symmetrical and dignified, the deep-ribbed 
spiny branches each pointing straight upward, with no 
foliage to flutter, no leaves to fall. The wind makes no 
murmuring, no sighing, among these strange growths. 
The thick stems lay up a great store of moisture in 
their spongy cells, not for a " rainy day," but for a 
rainless one, for the months when not a drop falls. 
Here was really a little desert of a few acres' extent, 
set in the midst of tropical greenness ; for below, the 
springs kept the vegetation ever luxuriant. 

Woodpeckers and other birds had bored their round 
holes in the cactus branches, and they doubtless nested 
there later in the year. Beneath them the Roadrunners 
loved to run and leap and watch for lizards ; here also 
the great lazy Iguanas had dug deep burrows in the 
sandy soil. Once I surprised and seized by the tail 
a big fellow, basking in a clump of tall grass, where 
he could not observe my approach. I felt as if I had 
grasped a prickly, animated, steel spring, and my 
strength was almost gone, when there was a sudden 

«4 230 #«• 

:::::::::C ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH vfe:::::::: 

relaxing of the strain and I fell backward, while the 
Iguana shot ahead into a steep hollow among the 
rocks. I had nine inches of tail in my hand and the 
Iguana seemed not a whit discommoded by his loss. 
After a hard struggle I secured him and kept him still 
long enough to photograph him, together with his 
discarded member, after which he rushed rapidly off 
to his hole. The entire reptile measured twenty-eight 
inches, and we realized that he was thus able to cast 
off one third of his entire length with impunity. 

This breaking off of the long tails of lizards is a 
most interesting process, besides being of the greatest 
value to the creatures themselves. Before an lo-uana 
emerges from the egg, its skeleton is not bony, but 
formed of a jelly-like substance which soon becomes of 
the consistency of hard gristle. This is called cartil- 
age, and later, when the true bone is deposited, a wad 
or pad of this cartilage remains unossified between each 
of the vertebrae, forming the backbone. This is true of 
almost all the higher animals, but, in the tail-bones 
of the Iguana, a little wedge of cartilage is found, ex- 
tending almost across the centre, or the centi'um, as it 
is called, of each bone. This, of course, causes a great 
weakness of the whole bone, and if such a condition 
existed in the upper back or neck, it would, indeed, be 
unfortunate for the lizard. But in the tail it proves an 
admirable safeguard. Here the muscles are very thick 
and short, and opposite the centre of each bone, and 

«4 231 ^ 

:::::::::«£ TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO m::::::::: 

they clove-tail into one another. So noAv it is clear that, 
if an enemy — myself in this instance — grasps the 
tail (which is the last exposed part of the animal as it 
dives into its hole), the violent struggles of the Iguana 
are sufficient to complete the crack which the wedge 
of cartilage always holds open, and the short muscles, 
slipping from their dove-tailed positions, give way, and 
thus separate the Eioana — as the Mexican tongue 
pronounces it — and his tail ! 

If this were all, an Iguana could have but one such 
chance of escape in his life, and if the break came 
between the tail-bones instead of acr^oss the middle of 
one of them, the creature would indeed go curtailed 
through life. But by another kindly provision of Na- 
ture, the exposed cells immediately begin to grow and 
before long, behold, a new tail ! But in reality a sham 
one, for from the stump there grows out a long, un- 
jointed rod of cartilage, not bone, with but few muscles, 
and skin which is covered with very small spines. But 
little the lofuana cares about the internal structure of 
his new appendags ; the fact that it is there, and may 
again be cast off in case of dire extremity, is all sufficient 
to him. It is a most interesting fact that, as the newly 
reji'enerated rod of cartilaofe recalls the condition of 
bone in the embryonic state, so the more simple ar- 
rangement of spines on the new skin sometimes harks 
back to an ancestral condition. The new tail thus bears 
upon it the shadow of the distant past. 

<^ 232 ^ 

:::::::::*? ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH ae=:;::::::: 

It was evident that, before my attempt to capture 
the Iguana, he had once been assailed, perhaps by 
hawk or eagle, and his tail broken off. The new 


scalation is plainly shown in the photograph, two joints 
below the second break, — fully seven inches of the 
nine which came off in my grasp being sham tail. Soon 
the break heals over and the new growth begins to 
push out. 

The adolescent cells in the exposed wedge of cartil- 
age are so fall of life and tail-making vigour that the 
renewed member is sometimes double, or even triple. 

«4 233 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO le::"."" 

Indeed, if the remaining tail-stump is slightly injured 
on top or on the side, a tiny extra tail may shoot out, 
where it is never meant to be. 

Scattered among the cactus and under the boulders 
were burrows larger than those of the Iguanas, and 
in these lived the quaint Nine-banded Armadillos. 
Occasionally our Mexican dug out a young one and 
we varied our bill of fare with his tender flesh; but 
the tough, older ones we caught, watched, and freed 

Very rarely one may come upon an armadillo, as 
we did, asleej) before his hole, sprawled out flat upon 
the earth, his little pig eyes tightly closed, his tail 
stretched straight out behind. But the long, delicate 
ears stood stiffly upright, giving a ludicrously alert 
aspect to his otherwise inert form. A pebble crunched 
into the sand under our feet and the sharp ears car- 
ried the warning, and, with a single glance, the little 
animal turned with surprising agility, and literally 
hurled himself into the entrance of his burrow. An 
armadillo seems absolutely defenceless when cornered 
and never thinks of anything but escape. When 
once his powerful claws have opened a way, even 
but a few inches, into the ground, it needs a strong 
pull to dislodge him. There are no weak joints in his 

From head to tail the scaly armour protects the arma- 
dillo ; his shoulders and haunches are each encased in 

«4 2.'}4 ^ 


a single inflexible piece, while nine bands about the 
centre of the body save him from the immobility of 
a turtle. What a stranoe creature ! We mis;ht imasfine 
that Tatu, for some crime, had been condemned to for- 
sake the appearance and activity of the fur-covered 
animals and simulate the scaly creatures of the dust. 
One cannot help comparing- the armadillos with the 
Iguanas. Science, however, allows us no such imagery, 
and, with ruthless scalpel, proves the former's kinship 
with sloth and ant-eater. The armadillos hereabouts 
were certainly neither solitary nor exclusively nocturnal, 
and we often saw them vanishing into their holes at 
midday, as we came suddenly upon them, although 
they were also found foraging at midnight. 

After capture, an armadillo scorns to seek protec- 
tion by rolling up in a ball. We very much desired to 
photograph one thus, but failed to do so. We spent 
several hours in rolling one into a close sphere, but the 
aggravating creature as often promptly unrolled and 
made off. 


A few steps upward from the zone of Tatu and 
Iguana burrows, and we were upon the crest of the 
arroyo wall. The level plain in front of us was fretted 
with dark, sinuous lines — the wooded edges of deep 
narrow bart^ancas, tracing the course of streams. In 
the distance Colima stood as ever — two peaks, deep, 

«4 235 ^ 


shadowy blue, against the paler blue of the sky. From 
the living- cone a line of white smoke wreathed upward 
and drifted toward the other peak, where it dipped and 
drifted about the snow-capped summit, merging its soft 
filminess into the oHstenino; snow. 

All about our feet, and in many other places around 
our camp, grew clumps of the little club-moss, known 
as the Resurrection Plant. We had often seen it sold 
in New York and wondered where its home could be, 
and here we found it, clinging in thousands to the 
scanty film of parched earth in the crevices of the 
boulders and cliffs. Each plant is like a little incurved 
ball of arbor-mice foliage, dry and brittle, but when 
placed in a spring or a pool of water, it opens wide its 
little array of leaves, which, in a day or two, turn from 
brown to green and send forth a spicy perfume. A 
bucket of water thrown among a multitude of these 
plants awakens into a brief greenness every one upon 
which it happens to fall ; but soon, unless kept moist, 
the little leaves close and return to their parched 
condition — the little brown fists are clinched again. 

Descending the arroyo wall obliquely, we continued 
up the dry canyon, and at the very edge of the desert 
patch, w^e came upon the first closed wasp's nest we 
had seen. Among the mesquites of the Guadalajara 
country, the wasps built their combs exposed to the 
light and air, but here, on the low cactus-pads, they 
made round paper stiiictures, with a single entrance 

-4 236 >» 

::::::;:3v ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH m::::::::: 

at the side. The yellow-bodied little workers were but 
half an inch in lenoth and their home eioht inches 
in diameter, but when a lizard unwittingly crept with 
short jerky advances upon their cactus-pad, jarring 
their nest, the tumult was such that we fled for our 

Here, at the edge of the open, the Western Mocking- 
birds loved to perch and whisper their songs. None 
were as yet full-voiced, but all were practising, and as 
one passed a low thorn-bush, there came to the ear 
a harmony, — low and blended as if from a great dis- 
tance, — and there, within a dozen feet, was the gray 
and white mastersinger. 

As we entered the more luxuriant growth along the 
stream-bed, the character of the birds, insects, and 
plants was wholly changed. The dull-coloured inhabit- 
ants of the sandy country were left behind, and here 
bright tints and green hues prevailed. A blossoming 
tree, which we found very abundant throughout the 
tierra caliente, was the primavera of the Mexicans, so 
called from its early spring blossoms ( Cochlospernmm 
hlhiscoides). Although yet leafless, its branches sent 
forth a myriad bell-shaped blossoms of brightest yel- 
low, growing in such profusion as sometimes to form 
one solid mass of colour. Amid these we found a very 
diminutive hummingbird, nameless to us, green and 
Avhite, with a lavender throat and a black streak 
through the eye. 

«4 237 ^ •• 

:::::::::*? TWO bird-lovers in Mexico B«""'" 


The arroyo now narrowed to one hundred feet, and 
tall trees cast a refreshing shade. Here and there a 
spring oozed from an overhanging ledge, trickled a few 
yards, and disappeared in the sand. Moss and lichens 
clothed the face of the cliff, and air-plants and orchids 
hung gracefully from the rocks and branches over- 
head; the mouths of gloomy hollows and caverns now 
and then darkened the mass of verdure. We selected 
a cool, shady defile, and, relieving ourselves of cameras, 
gun, and insect-net, we explored the little glade around 
us. Convolvulus blossoms — scarlet and blue — bright- 
ened the shadows, and in lighter spots a species of 
beautiful flowering-grass, not unlike the Pampas grass 
of florists, grew luxuriantly. 

Several times I passed two or three patches of what 
I took to be dense growths of a brown hair-like moss, 
springing from an overarching bank of turf. In at- 
tempting to pick a blossom almost out of reach, my 
hand came in contact with the moss and to my surprise 
it began to scramble away ! A second glance revealed 
the truth. Thousands of Daddy-long-legs had gathered 
in this limited space, clinging with their jaws close to 
the earth, while all their legs dangled down and out- 
ward. When quiet returned to the mass of little 
creatures, not one of their bodies was visible, nothing 
but thousands upon thousands of thread or moss-like 
legs hanging free. The photograph shows a few indi- 

«4 238 ^ 

:::::::::^ ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH m::::::::: 

viduals on the outside making their way back into the 
general mass. A week later, when we again visited this 
spot, the " Daddies " were in exactly the same place 
and position. 

Such a remarkable protective scheme was worth a 
whole day's search, but the arroyo fairly showered 
marvels upon us. While walking up the dark ravine I 
saw, to my amazement, four flecks of sunshine dancing 
slowly ahead of me, although, at that moment, not 
a breath of air stirred the branches. I could make 
nothing of it, until I enclosed the flickering spots in 
my net. Only then did I see that they were four yellow 


«4 239 ^ 


and white markings, one at the tip of each wing of a 
large dragon-fly. In the dim light of the ravine, the rest 
of the wings, transparent and colourless, and the long. 


attenuated body, were absolutely invisible, leaving to 
the eye only four small golden spots, which would ordi- 
narily be lost among the myriad dots of sunlight. For 
an insect of its size (4^ inches in spread of wings, and 

«4 240 ^ 

::::;::::=*? ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH m::::::::: 

with a body 4 inches in length) the protection was the 
most perfect I had ever seen. To photograph the dra- 
gon-fly I had to pose it in the brightest sunHght, thus 
giving no idea of the wonderful illusion which a deep 
shadow produced — when the wings vanished, the body 
became a slender twig, and only a single spot of yellow, 
where the wings overlapped, told of its position ; a hint 
so intangible that it must be safe, even in this land of 
keen-eyed, insect-eating birds, mammals, and reptiles. 

The most wonderful 
protective scheme of all 
was shown in the Leaf 
Butterflies ( Tagetis mer- 
meria), which were not 
uncommon in the more 
shady glades of the Stream 

of Death, 

Again and 


them ; 


returned to 
wonder at 
time to find 
each time to mistake them 
at first g-lance for fallino- 

Each individual but- 
terfly had a range of fif- 
teen or twenty yards uj) 
and down the dry, rocky 

<^ 241 ^ 


:::r.::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*:::::;::: 

bed, and day after day each might be found in its 
particular haunt. Every insect was different from its 
neighbour, noticeably so, even on the wing. Some 
were much larger than others, some darker, some 
strongly mottled with gray spots. This remarkable 
variation seemed concomitant with the resemblance 
to the variety of hues and mottlings which exist 
among dead and withered leaves. When one of these 
butterflies was in flight, one could not catch a glimpse 
of the upper surface of its wings, so quickly were 
they snapped together. 

The sustaining power, gained by the momentum of 
this instantaneous downward drop and momentary 
opening of the wings, was expended in a visibly bal- 
anced second of rest at the end of each flaj), just as 
a dead leaf shoots and eddies, slides and twists in its 
fall to earth. Not only this, but Avhen the insect took 
to wing it shot almost straight upward, and instantly 
attained the highest point of its flight. From here to 
its j)lace of alighting, its course was a gradual descent 
— this living leaf unconsciously reflecting every detail 
of the fall of the withered bits of vegetation. And 
further, when the butterfly alighted, it was not with 
a fluttering and a few moments of hovering, but as a 
leaf comes to rest, so the insect — a sudden drop to the 
very ground, wings snapped together, and the appar- 
ently dried, worm-eaten leaf leaned far over to one 
side and swayed with every breath of air. Day after 

" <i- 242 ^ 

:::'.:::::^x ALONG THE stream of death B:::::-:: 

day we saw the same performance, the little creatures 
evading- the sunlight, guiding their careless flight so 
that its course followed the darkest ways. Senorita's 
corduroy walking-skirt was just the shade of some of 
these golden brown butterflies, and many times their 
flight ended upon the dress, their selection of it again 
and again arguing, in their many-faceted eyes, an ac- 
curate power of appreciation of the shades of colour. 


We continued still farther between the contracting 
walls of the arroyo. The great boulders, around and 
under which we picked our way, were rounded and 
worn smooth by the force of the great torrent which, 
for six months of the year, surges over them. Now, 
double lines of leaf-carrying ants passed dry-shod 
across our path. In the finely ground sand-bed the 
treacherous pits of the Philistine Ant-lions were hol- 
lowed. Wasps plastered their tiny pellets of clay or 
wood pulp against the rocks, where, in a few months, 
a devastating tide would surge. The hungry fish in 
the harranca streams below must fare sumptuously 
after the first rains. We passed side tributaries, stream- 
lets, arroyltos the Mexicans would say, and occasion- 
ally, where a sharj) turn occurred, the sheer walls 
narrowed until we could span the gorge with our out- 
stretched arms. Little vegetation grew here, for the 
water swept the sides too clear of earth, and even far 

«4 243 -^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B--""- 

above our heads the volcanic rocks were scoured 
smooth. Here the sunHg-ht never entered, and black 
lianas hung' down from far overhead, twisting and 
knotting around each other, where they touched, like 
the Dantesque serpents of some frightful " round " of 

Wherever a ledge or a more gentle slope gave foot- 
hold, luxuriant vegetation crowded it ; gigantic Agaves, 
or Century-plants, variegated with white, starred the 
walls ; purple-leafed orchids, and now and then a dang- 
ling tangle of Night-blooming Cereus, the spiny stems 
looking; like nothinof so much as colonies of monstrous 
hydras, tentacled and budding. Where the drip and 
splash of ice-cold springs were heard, mosses and ferns 
abounded, delicate maidenhair, with fronds two and 
three feet in length, forming arrowheads of filmiest 
green against the black moist cliffs. Saxifrage (ety- 
mologically, if not botanically) lit up the glades wath 
myriads of white stars, filling the whole air with 
sweetest fragrance. 

In such a setting we found that most exquisite of 
birds — the Painted Redstart — in abundance. Not 
a chirp or warble did they utter, but dashed silently to 
and fro, flaming out in the dark ravines — visions of 
black, scarlet, and white. 

Not a sound broke the silence, save the gentle tinkle 
of water falling upon water. Without warning, from 
the green depths at one side, there came several notes, 

- «^ 244 -^ 

:::::::::=)i;y ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH m: 

creaky and harsh in tone, and suddenly these seemed 
to melt and run together into a volume of marvellous 
sweetness. The plaintiveness of the pewee, the tinkle 
and gurgle of the bobolink, the rich liquidness of the 
wood thrush ; all these characterized it, but it dif- 
fered from all, excelling the songs of all other birds in 
depth of feeling and sweetness. It was the mystery 
and beauty of these trojiical ravines embodied in song. 
Such was the song of the Solitaire, one of the marvels 
of Mexico, for which we had hoped. It came and died 
away before we realized what we had heard. Breath- 
less, we strained our ears and soon the first low creak- 
ing notes separated themselves from the tinkling of 
the falling water, and again they merged into the 
grand ensemble of musical tones. Solitaire he seemed 
in reality as well as in name, but soon, from the next 
turn in the arroyo, came an echoing sweetness and at 
last, fainter, as from a great distance, a third took up 
the incomparable theme. 

It was a song impossible to describe — a gradually 
ascending strain of interlacing, silvery notes, the tink- 
ling melody rising, as rises the sound of a crystal 
vessel filling with water. We lay on our backs and 
searched the shadows overhead, but to no purpose. 
Suddenly the melody broke out straight above us and 
there, in a tangle of lianas, perched the Solitaire. His 
head and body were firm and steady and only a tremb- 
ling of the throat revealed the source of the song. In 

<^ 245 #* 

:::::::::m two BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B:"""" 

no other bird is an equal volume of sound produced 
with so little effort. The compensating law of Nature 
allots to this matchless singer a simple Quaker garb of 
brownish gray. He made us think of a catbird with 
a ring of white about the eye. 

While we listened to the JUguero (Heelgaro), as the 
Mexicans call him, all other songs that we had ever 
heard seemed insignificant. The melody of the bird 
seemed born of the rustling; winds and the murmuring; 
waters. Now and then he plucked a small berry from 
a twig near him, but his song grew no less clear, as he 
uttered it again and again. When the last berry was 
gone, as suddenly as he had appeared, the Solitaire flew 
straight back into the depths of his secluded home. 


In another place, where the arroyo again shallowed 
and widened, the rank vegetation grew down to the 
very brink of the phantom waters. Birds and other 
creatures had concentrated here, where feathery tufts of 
bamboo, and trees bearing a fruit like small oranges, 
were scattered among countless varieties of bushes, 
vines, and trees, nameless to us. An ever-to-be-remem- 
bered five minutes came to us, when the very flood- 
gates of life were opened. From our rocky seat, Sefior- 
ita and I marvelled at the sudden abundance of living 
creatures, appearing and passing so quickly that only 
the stenography of the mind could note them at the 

«4 246 #* 

:::::::::*; ALONG THE stream OF DEATH m::::::::: 

moment. An Iguana, black as night, shuffled along 
a narrow ledge of rock, fifty feet above us, and scram- 
bled into its hole, flicking off a pebble with the last 
wriggle of its disappearing tail. The pebble came 
boundingr; toward us and fell with a clatter at our feet. 
In its descent it started a pair of Painted Redstarts, 
which flew away with silvery chirps, and a Pileolated 
Warbler and a Xanthus Ground Sparrow dashed away 
down the arroyo, dodging swiftly among the trees. 

Two diminutive Sinaloa Ladder-backed Woodpeckers 
made a great clatter near by, one drumming on a dry 
resonant tree-trunk, and its mate tapping a swaying 
rattle-seeded bush. A Pitangua Tyrant flew over, and, 
looking down, screamed its hoarse tear-r-r I at us. And 
now events followed one another even more quickly. 
A large- winged white butterfly, twice splashed with 
yellow, floated past, and a hitherto unnoticed Solitaire 
darted at him, almost in our faces. The bird missed 
its aim and was instantly pursued by a splendid Cop- 
per-tailed Trogon, all brown, rose, white, and black. 
Both birds dashed about, in swift flight, for a few 
minutes; then the former disappeared and the Solitaire, 
alighting about ten feet away, burst into his song, 
sweet and measured, with no hint of breathlessness. 
Before he had half finished, eleven great macaws 
whistled low through the branches, almost fanning our 
faces with their wings, all uttering the harshest of 
shrieks when they suddenly perceived us. During all 

«4 247 ^ 

::::::::»v t\yo bird- lovers IN MEXICO B-"-" 

this din, the Kqiiid, chain-like melody of the Solitaire 
held true, cutting' through the macaws' territic cries 
like a shaft of clear light through the darkness. Two 
bird voices more antithetical probably do not exist, 
and the birds themselves present as strong a contrast, 
— the gray thrush with its delicate bill opened ever 
so little, and the gaudy green macaws, scarlet fronted, 
with huge yellow mandibles wide agape ! 

All passed in a moment, but our glance remained 
upward, and far up, across the narrow strip of blue sky 
which roofed the arroyo, two vultures and a Caracara 
Eagle passed in their circling flight. A Black Hawk, 
which had been perched in a niche of the clitf, now 
took to wing with an echoing cry ; a White-fronted 
Dove whirred past our resting-place ; and a velvety 
Heliconia butterfly waved its way slowly up the defile. 
Then a great peace settled over the little shut-in bit of 
world, and for many minutes we sat there, marvelling 
upon the beauty and wonder of it all. 

Far up in these isolated defiles we found that the 
trogons spent their days, while at night, as we had 
seen, they came to the river to drink, and roosted not 
far from its waters. The habits of the White-fronted 
Doves were almost the reverse of this, as we suspected 
Avhen we noticed the flocks passing at evening up into 
the lower arroyo. 

As we made our way up the arroyo, we were hardly 
conscious of the gradual ascent, but a steep climb to the 

«4. 248 #* 

:::::::;aK ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH B:;:::;::; 

top of one wall showed that the pine forests of the vol- 
cano's slope were close at hand, and that we were many 
hundred feet above our camp at the level of the har- 


ranca river. Soon the openings to the sky were framed 
in long, graceful pine-needles, and when the stream-bed 
became too narrow for comfortable walking, we took 
to the woods at the higher level. The transition zone 
was uninteresting and seemed to offer attractions to but 

«4 249 #* 

:::::::::^; T^YO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-"-" 

few creatures, but when the dense pine forest replaced 
all more tropical growths, the sudden change in the 
character of the fauna and flora was remarkable, and 
trusting only to our ears, we might have believed our- 
selves at home in the North in early spring. 

An hour ago and we were in the tropics, among 
troofons and macaws ; here the notes of bluebirds 
came to us, and we fou^id that it w^^s the very same 
bird as that of our Northern orchards. A faint gold- 
finch-like note had some unfamiliar quality, and its 
author, though goldfinch-like in actions and flight, was 
a black-headed, green-bodied little bird, which we must 
call the Forrer Siskin. Bob-White I rang clear and bold 
through the pines, though the birds would not allow 
us to approach them. There were many species of birds 
keeping to the very tops of the tallest trees, wdiich were 
so wary that we found it impossible to identify them. 
Audubon Warblers were abundant, and here they w^ere 
in full spring plumage, while those at lower levels, 
which we saw daily about our camp, were still clad in 
their dull winter dress. 

But this forest of long-leaved pines was too near the 
tropics to be entirely boreal in its nature, and the Thick- 
billed Parrot, the only species of its order wdiicli finds 
its way across the Rio Grande into the southwestern 
part of our own country, was here tame and abundant 
among the coniferous trees. It is either a very stupid 
bird or controlled by its curiosity, for the flocks fol- 

«4 250 ^ - 



lowed us everywhere as we made our way over the 
sHppery ground. The fatigue of walking among these 
pines was very great. The ground was carpeted with 
the smooth, slippery needles, and everything, the trunks 
of the trees, the needles, and soon our clothes and 
camera were thickly coated with the white ashes falling 
from the active volcano, whose dense outpourings of 
white smoke were visible above the trees ahead. 

c4 251 #» 

:::::::::C TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"''"» 


The afternoon was quickly passing, and we hastened 
to turn our steps toward camp. We returned by a 
shorter route, cutting off the great bend made by the 
arroyo, and passing through a small village where a 
few Mexicans drao-o;ed out their lives in this isolated 
region. Poverty-stricken and ignorant, they were yet 
hospitable and kind. Their little 'dobe chapel (for they 
were too poor to have a church) was ornamented with 
tattered and dirty ribbons, which were once bright-col- 
oured, and with begrimed and faded bits of tinsel. As 
we approached, a crowd of about fifty people, the entire 
population of the village, were gathered before the 
chapel, singing a wild but not unmusical chant, which 
miofht well have been derived from some heathen rites 
of the aboriofinal Indians. We found that it was a 
fiesta — la fiesta cjrande I For had not the Virgin been 
brought from some distant church to honour them by 
a visit ! The men had carefully carried the life-sized 
wooden image upright on a platform, mile after mile, 
up and down the rugged hanrmcas and over the hot 
plains ; and eight men had taken turns at transporting 
a pitiful little worn-out organ, wherewith to accompany 
the chants to the Virgin. And now they were as happy 
as children, worshipi^ing and praying, and beginning 
to feel the first effects of the pulque — the drink which 
plays so prominent a part in all their fiestas. We re- 
fused the unpleasant national beverage, but indulged 

«4- 252 ^ 

:::::::::C ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH ;*::::::::: 

in some delicious nieve con Jemon, - — an attempt at ice- 
cream, — made from the snow which some patient 
homhre had carried on his back all the way from the 
distant crater of the snow volcano. Followed by the 
chorus of '' Ifuchas gracias, Seiior ; Adios, Seiior- 
ifa" which a few silver coins aroused, we left them, 
and the weird rhythmical chant once more rose and 
fell on the evening- air. 

Descending again to the bottom of the caroyo, for 
fear of losing our way on the monotonous, pathless 
plain, we were plunged for a time into almost complete 
darkness. After the brief tropical twilight the sun was 
blotted out with strange abruptness, but a beautiful 
moon soon shone upon our path and our eyes adjusted 
themselves to the strange, soft light. 

Many of the small flowers were now tight closed in 
apparent sleep, but the most beautiful blossoms of all 
opened almost before our eyes. While yet some dis- 
tance away^ the graceful, tapering petals of the Night- 
blooming Cereus shone out fair and beautiful in the 
moonlight. The out-curving petals expand four or five 
inches across, surrounding a multitude of thread-like 
stamens, which spring, rank upon rank, from the 
centre, delicately graduated inward, so that the long 
pistil is the focus of a thousand yellow pollen-heads, 
which rise, amphitheatre-like, around it. These flowers 
grow on stalks six or eight inches in length, and yet 
the ovary is at the very base, and the stalk is a hollow 

«4 253 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO ?*::::::::: 

tube, within which is the slender white style. Only for 
a single night do these beautiful flowers open, and 
what is a tightly closed bud at dusk may be a full- 
blown blossom an hour later. By watching carefully, 
we plainly detect the motion of the expanding petals. 

The delicious perfume from a cereus flower can be 
detected many yards away, even by our dull senses, 
and it must, indeed, be a potent summons to the keen- 
sensed hawk-moths and other insects upon which this 
flower depends for fertilization during its brief season 
of perfection. 

Strange sounds come to us upon our moonlight 
walk ; mice scurry from our path, a flying-squirrel, or 
some small furry creature of great leaping power, 
passes through the air. Throughout a quarter of a mile 
of our course a sound reaches us, almost continuous in 
its mysterious rhythm ; a noise as of a mallet striking 
on wood — thump-tlmm'p ! tJmmp-tkump ! Whether 
from bird or beast, it will ever be to us an unsolved 
voice of the night. 

As the hours pass, the tension of the silence and 
the dimness becomes greater ; every sense is quickened 
and alert, not a rustle of the dry underbrush or a swish 
of wings overhead escapes us. Some creature coughs — 
a sudden painful choking sound, and we start, as if it 
were a gun-shot. The feeling that a myriad of watch- 
ful eyes are upon us is irresistible. They seem to peer 
out from each hole and cavern — eyes more keen than 

«4 254 #» 

:■:::::::*? ALONG THE STRE.\M OF DEATH [Sks::::::; 

ours. We leave the arroyo and climb up a steep ledge, 
which will cut oft' a half-mile of winding stream-bed. 
A single dead mesquite crowns the narrow summit, 
and on its topmost branch a full-plumaged Caracara 
Eagle sits erect and watchful, his outline silvered by 
the clear moonlight. He seems not to notice us as we 
pass beneath. 

Pausing a moment, on the narrow summit of the 
dividing cliff, we watch the dull glow above the crater 
of the volcano. It is quiet now, after a few days of 
more than usual activity. Its lurid reflection is the 
Avildest touch in this landscape of black chasms and 
shadowless jjlains. A strange cry comes from some 
bird of the night high overhead, and as we are about 
to resume our way, a muffled sound comes from the 
great harranca far to our left, — a sonorous growling 
roar which rises to a scream, — cut short off. It has 
been described to us by some American miners, and 
now we know it instantly for the cry of the jaguar, a 
sound new to us and setting every nerve a-quiver with 
love of the wilderness, — a love which, after all, is but 
slightly " sicklied o'er " with the veneer of our civil- 
ization. Few of us are without this feeling. 

Descending on the other side into the arroyo again, 
we leave the silent Caracara still motionless, keeping 
his midnight vigil. As we brush through a dense line 
of bamboos and willows, we startle a Canyon Wren. 
It flutters away, and in its excitement breaks into 

«4 255 ^ 

:::::::;:*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO 5j?:":::::: 

silvery song. The boulders are less frequent now and 
the velvety, yielding sand strews our path wdtli silence. 
Something crackles and pushes through the bushes 
ahead o£ us and we stop motionless. Two Mexican 
Deer w^alk down the steep slope and then turn river- 
ward. Some instinct, born of their alert, wild life, 
impels them to turn and look at us, and there we stand, 
almost afraid to breathe, lest we startle them. Our 
hearts seem to beat audibly, our pulses to click. The 
deer stand as if cut in stone, twitching not a muscle. 
All their being is straining through those four large 
eyes — those quivering nostrils. Is it life or death 
which they see ? 

The strain becomes unbearable and we step forward. 
Eight tendons snap, and lift the deer high in air. 
Two white tails shine out, and leaping from ledge to 
ledge, the two animals go up the hillside, sailing 
smoothly, swiftly, among bush and crag, until they 
vanish in the dimness of the laro-er a-powth. 

Armadillos scurry heavily, like little overladen tug- 
boats, across the river of sand, and more than once a 
fox drifts noiselessly into its hole. We pass the tangle 
of white seed-fluffs where we know the trogons are 
roosting, and, turning down the last bend of the array o, 
come into full view of our tents, shining in the moon- 

Stronofer than ever there comes to us the love of all 
the wildness which receives and shelters us so kindly. 

-4 256 #* " 

:::::::::C ALONG THE STREAM OF DEATH m::;:::::: 
The tent in the Httle shelf of the chlf which we call 
home is open to receive us. We sleejD, to dream of cool 
pines and the warble of bluebirds. We wake, to hear 
the scream of a macaw and the song- of a humming- 
bird's wino-s. 




INDING our semi-tropical camping-place 
so delightful, cool at night, and during 
the heat of the day tempered by refresh- 
ing breezes, we were encouraged to push 
on to the very heart of the tropical Pacific lowlands. 

A day of packing ; a week's return to Guadalajara 
for fresh provisions and more photographic plates; 
a return to Tuxpan ; the right of way of a freight 
train contested by several misguided hurros ; a delay 
of five hours in an alkali desert, while the track and 
freight train are restored to their normal relative posi- 
tions ; a three o'clock breakfast by starlight in the 
2KLtio of the Hotel Central — and w^e were off on our 
long ride. 

At this early hour the air was vital with life-giving 
power. Our horses bucked from sheer exuberant energy 
and we gave them rein and galloped like the wind, 
through the long, narrow, earth-paven streets and out 
upon the plain : world-wide it seemed in the soft glow 
of the stars. Is there a more delightful sensation in 
the world than to feel a strong: horse beneath vou, 
moving with great four-footed leaps, while you, poised, 

<4: 258 #» 

::::::::3K THE TROPICS ^:::::::: 

steady, guide him with a touch ? A Centaur had in- 
deed compensations for his grotesqueness ! 

As we reached the outskirts of the village, we 
glanced back, and there, balanced in the vista of the 


narrow street, was a burning, brilliant crescent moon, 
magnified in size by its low position. The old cathe- 
dral was warmed by its light and the tile-edges and 
adobe walls of each home were silvered. 

When fairly on the trail we rode slowly, passing 

«4 259 #* 

:::::::::^s TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO ^Sc""":: 

our former camj3ing-places and resting during the heat 
of the day. By twihght we made Tonila, the halfway 
village, nestling at the very foot of the mountain of 
fire. The usual J7esta was in full swing', for which we 
were glad, as it ensured an abundauce of snow ice- 
cream. This we enjoyed all the more when we learned 
that the snow was brought by Mexicans in sacks from 
the lofty frozen summit of the fire mountain's dead 
sister peak. 

The little plaza Avas a weird sight that night. The 
wide-open doors of the dim church revealed the 
figures of kneeling Avomen and children. Outside, the 
flickering light of a multitude of bark-torches flared 
unsteadily, throwing lights and shadows among the 
crowd of Mexicans. Now and then an unearthly glow 
fell upon all and then died out — the eternal torch 
of the overhanging volcano. The Mexicans bought 
pulque and dulces and listened to the pitiful little 
band. Once, at a more flourishing period in the an- 
nals of Tonila, the natives had erected an elaborate 
and gaudy band-stand, which was now falling into 
ruin. Though their numbers had lessened and their 
pesos dwindled to an all-pervading poverty, yet their 
love of music was no whit less. In the centre of the 
dilapidated platform stood a lonesome little group of 
four. On the floor was a low box. On its centre a 
candle. On each side of the dim light was a piece of 
tattered music. With two worn-out violins, a guitar, 

•»4 260 #* 

::::::::3e THE TROPICS aK"""- 

and a cornet, the performers were interpreting a bit 
of grand opera. They bent painfully over the low 
box, and when a gust of wind snuffed the candle, the 
music ceased for a moment, to be taken up at the 
same note when the taper was relighted. With miser- 
able instruments and witli no leader, they yet kept 
perfect time, and hardly a note was flatted. The 
rapt attention of the crowds of Mexicans and their 
enthusiastic applause Avere hearty incentives to the 
musicians to do their best. 

Before daylight we were up and mounted again, 
feeling our way down steep barrancas and splashing 
through ice-cold streams. Suddenly a warm glow of 
light flooded us, and, glancing up, we saw that the 
sun had lighted up the gray-white, lava-covered slopes 
of Colima, which reflected the glory to us, deep in the 
twilight of a narrow gorge. At the magic touch of 
this light the spell of silence was broken, as sleep re- 
leased a great host of living creatures. Macaws, her- 
alded by their harsh cries, passed over from their roost 
in the piney depths of the mountain. The chorus of 
Canyon Wrens rang out, and an oriole stirred the 
echoes with a liquid ivhew-whew-iohew-o ! A certain 
species of wild fig, a very characteristic and notice- 
able tree in this portion of Mexico, grows upon the 
sheer, rocky walls of the barrancas. It has a hard, 
smooth bark, yellowish white in colour, and its roots, 
which are of necessity exposed to the air, are also cov- 

«4 261 #* 


ered with bark of similar colour and texture. Instead 
of the trunk ending suddenly at the base and ramify- 
ing into a mass of radiating roots, the main stem grad- 
ually divides into these structures, which wind and 
twist, like so many snakes, about the crevices of the 
cliff, often reaching downward in total length many 
times the height of the tree itself. At the bottom 
of the canyon they enter the ground and lose their 
yellow covering. 

Whenever birds, insects, and flowers were absent from 
the trail and the volcanos were temporarily hidden from 
sight, we could always occupy ourselves with the study 
of pack-mule psychology. And there was never lack of 
interesting material. Verily some of these sure-footed, 
long-eared beasts of burden seemed to be endowed with 
human intelligence, and that too of an order highly 
developed through knowledge of much wickedness ! One 
vicious beast had a trick of slyly rubbing up against 
our riding-animals, choosing a time when the trail 
narrowed and deepened, thus bruising our bodies most 
unmercifully. When urged on faster than they liked, 
they would carelessly and with sleepy eyes edge up to 
us and nip our ankles sharply. But the remarkable 
exhibition of intelligence, to which I have alluded, was 
shown in the ingenious w^ays in which they sought to 
ease or relieve themselves of their loads. One large 
black mule, aptly named Diablo, was a stubborn brute 
and would take any amount of punishment without 

<i 262 #» 

::::::::^ THE TROPICS B::::::::: 

accelerating his pace in the smallest degree. Then, 
without warning, he would start out on a run which 
soon left the rest of the pack-train far behind. In 
fifteen or twenty minutes we would come in sight of 
him, comfortably resting on his back in the middle of 
the trail, his legs sprawling in mid-air while he took his 
brief siesta reposing on our clothing-bags. We soon 
learned that photographic plates and other breakables 
must not be intrusted to him. He well knew that his load 
must be taken off and readjusted before he could rise. 
This philosophic problem of gaining a momentary rest 
was solved by two other animals by sitting doion with 
their loads ! Whenever a low ledg-e of rock bounded 
the trail they would back up to it, crouch down upon 
their haunches like dogs and rest the edge of the packs 
on the ledge, looking most comical as they sat there, 
gazing about with their huge ears bobbing back and 

As a rule, these strong animals are good steady 
workers. When one stops and absolutely refuses to 
budge, the Mexicans immediately unload it, for this is 
a sure sign that something is wrong with the pack. 
Nothing will induce the animal to move until his load 
is made right. 

The most wonderful characteristic of these mules is 
their ability to survive accidents and falls which would 
break every bone in the body of an ordinary horse. 
An animal is sometimes overbalanced by its pack, and 

<i. 263 ^ " 

:::::::::=ȣ TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B:"""": 

stumbling on the edge of a slope, it rolls many yards 
over and over or even head over tail down sheer slopes. 
After such an occurrence, when I would expect to 
gather up my belongings from a mass of mangled 
mule-flesh, I would instead find the creature perhaps 
astride of a tree which had broken its fall, or huddled, 
bruised, but otherwise uninjured, on the next turn of 
the trail below. When such an accident occurs, the 
animal seems to gather its head and legs close to its 
body and, hunching its back, rolls harmlessly on until 
something stops it. 

More than once I have seen a mule, laden with 
cocoannts or sugar, deliberately kneel and slide or roll 
swiftly down to the next bend in the trail. We should 
never have believed, if we had not seen it, that animals 
could survive some of the experiences which befell 
these mules. In fact they have a remarkable faculty 
for getting into scrapes which end in a short relief for 
them, and for getting out of others which do not 
terminate thus happily for them. 

All day we rode on, always downw^ard and curving 
gradually around the twin volcanos. They w^ere lode- 
stones wdiicli forever drew our eyes. The black pine 
forest on the shoulders of the fire mountain kept its 
denseness and its dark hue to the gray higher slopes of 
deadly heat. Here and there, wide paths were cut deep 
down among the pines, where the hot outpourings had 
seared and shrivelled everything before them. 

«4 264 |» - 

::::::::ag THE TROPICS m::::;:::: 

The sister peak presented a very different appear- 
ance. Its pine forest was as black and dense as that of 
the other volcano, but at the higher elevations the 
black faded to dark gray, this to lighter, where the 
shrubs and dwarfed growths gave place to moss and 
barren rocks, and above all rested the gleaming cap of 

As we rode on, hour after hour, the aspect of the 
two peaks constantly changed, and as we looked up 
from time to time, it seemed as if we were encircling 
many mountains instead of one. That night found us 
at the city of Colima, with the volcano at our backs. 

Next mornino^ a little engfine drew us along- the 
narrow-gauge track toward Manzanillo and the Pacific. 
The mountains were left behind and we were in the 
lowlands bordering the coast. We passed plantations of 
coffee and rice and thick jungles of trees, unnameable 
to us. Our bags and tents were unloaded at a forlorn lit- 
tle station with the euphonious name of Coquimatlan. 

In choosing our destination we had trusted to luck, 
and had selected the wildest country of which we could 
learn, taking a letter of introduction to the owner of 
a small isolated hacienda. 

The train went on and left us. The natives drew 
near, and we mounted guard over our baggage and 
began to palaver for information and for mules. The 
latter would not be forthcoming until late afternoon, 
and information was extracted painfully and unsatis- 

«4 265 #* 

:::::::::*? T^YO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B--"" 

factorily. The average Mexican is willing- to tell what 
he knows, but this is almost nil concerning the coun- 
try, even about his own home, while five miles away is 
to him a terra incognita. 

When we were almost in despair as to which direc- 
tion to turn. Providence sent along a hand-car, which 
we flagged. After a little tactful display of red-sealed 
official papers, we obtained permission to take our guns 
and cameras and board the little platform. Our Mexi- 
can was to follow later with the baggage. All Avas down 
grade and we gradually attained a momentum which 
made us gasp for breath. On and on we went, whiz- 
zing around sharp curves and bumping over the uneven 
rails. The adobe huts soon disappeared and the wilder- 
ness crept up to the very edge of the track. Once we 
dashed straight through a covey of Scaled Quail which 
rose from the track, the birds not having time to fly 
to one side. 

At last the brake was applied and we came to a stop 
near a narrow opening in the jungle. Leaving a signal 
guide for our Mexican, we set out on foot. For two 
miles we followed this trail which ended at an isolated 


The letters of introduction Avhich we carried opened 
the heart of the overseer and his family, and his 
disappointment was sincere when he learned that we 

«^ 266 ^ 

;:C THE TROPICS >$c:::-:= 


did not desire to share his home and board durino" 
our stay. 

These Mexicans of the middle class have some edu- 
cation and they are most kind and hospitable, but we 
could not enjoy life on a diet of tortillas and frijoles, 
nor could we become accustomed to that familiarity 
with domestic animals, which is their custom. Hens 
begging for crumbs leaped fearlessly upon one's lap 
or upon the dinner-table, little chickens swarmed over 
one's person, while pigs, dogs, puppies, and cats were 
omnipresent, — surrounded, fondled, and trod under 

-^ 267 ^ 

:::::::::*: TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B'"-"" 

foot by innumerable very small and very dirty little 
Mexicans, almost as unhampered by clothes as their 
furred and feathered playfellows. 

We were glad, however, to accept the shelter of the 
great bare guest-house, for the first night. Our Mex- 
ican cook rolled up in his blanket on the porch outside, 
but the hosts of fleas drove him to the dining-table, 
which was also on the porch. Here he alternately 
dozed and did battle with a rooster, which persisted 
in perching upon and crowing from the head of the 
unfortunate youth. Indoors our cots kept us out of 
trouble, but a vampire annoyed us for an hour or two, 
fluttering close to our heads and making sleep im- 
possible. The horses next morning showed evidence 
of visits from these bloodthirsty bats — long streaks of 
blood on their necks and shoulders. 

A thorough search of the neighbourhood, on horse- 
back, revealed, about a mile away from the house, 
an open glade which was some twenty yards from 
a stream. Here we decided to make camp. We could 
not refuse our friend's offer of assistance, and, under 
the strong hands of a half-dozen sturdy Mexicans and 
Indians, our tents were unrolled and set up, the camp 
site cleared and a barrier of thorns erected, all as if by 
magic. Mi\k and melon zapotes — a delicious melon- 
like fruit which greAv at the top of a tree — were pro- 
mised, and our opinion of the middle-class Mexican 
character rose another notch. 

«4 268 ^ 

;:::::::se THE TROPICS ^i^zz: 

One of the Mexicans said that he hoped we were 
good Catholics, because of that — pointing to the top 
of the cliff above our camp. I saw nothing but a huge 
projecting stone. He was astonished that my senses 
were so dull, and explained that the Virgin was there ; 
and we found that this legend Avas implicitly believed. 
Some heretics, so the story goes, once passed through 
this country, and here the Virgin appeared, the vision 
instantly converting them. Her image remained in 
semblance of stone — to Mexican eyes. Our Mexican 
friend shook his head when he found that we were not 
Roman Catholics, and day after day we were urged to 
move, lest, because of our unbelief, a terrible fate over- 
take us ; but we insisted on remainino- and claimino- 
the Virgin's protection, and she did not betray us. 

Twilight seemed even shorter here than in the 
higher altitudes, and we slept too soundly to notice 
what hints of the tropical life reached our tent that 
first nioht. 

Our walk to the stream in the early morning led 
through a little green vale, arched over with dense 
foliage. The great wide-stretching limbs of trees were 
all corded together and draped with thick, knotty lianas, 
which stretched to the ground, or swung clear in great 
loops — trapezes, swings, and slack-ropes ready for 
parrot or monkey. Feathery-headed palms reached 
high above all, their long, straight columns, clean and 
smooth, piercing the roof of vegetation high overhead. 

<i- 269 #* 

:::::::::C TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO ^p:::;;::: 

At the end of the glade a cold spring trickled from 
an orchid-padded wall, and not thirty feet away, a flow 
of tepid water, rich in minerals, had worn a little clear 
path for itself, some property of its composition being 
inimical to vegetable growth. Just beyond the two 
springs, a deep pool of the crystal water nestled at the 
foot of a gigantic wild fig, whose branches reached 
out a hundred feet in all directions. 

The stream flowed on in a most erratic course, tAvist- 
ing and winding until, in following it, one lost all idea 
of the points of the compass. Its banks occasionally 
widened out into lawn-like stretches, or dense ferns 
and reeds restricted its course to a deep narrow chan- 
nel. A short distance away from the stream, the effects 
of the long rainless season were very evident in the 
lack of green verdure and the intrusion of thorny 
acacias and pulpy cacti. 

We were about twenty miles from the Pacific Ocean, 
over four degrees south of the Tropic of Cancer, and 
but a few hundred feet above sea-level. Our camp was 
at the very base of a steep cliff, while to the west the 
jungle thinned out to low, open bush. To the south 
and southwest wound the stream, while the north 
framed the ever more wonderful volcano. Amid such 
surroundings we began our camp-life in the tropics. 


The nights were full of interest and almost every 
«4 270 #* - 

:::::::::if THE TROPICS M^- 

time we rolled up in our blankets for the night, some 
new creature came to investigate the strange white 
things which were so tantalizing to the curiosity of the 





,_ '~'i. , \r^Tfl!BvHK 











wild kindred. The sound of even the lightest breath 
of wind, sifting through the finely divided leaves of 
the mimosas and palm fronds, was as different as pos- 
sible from the sighing of pines or the rustle of ordin- 
ary foliage. It was a soothing, softly sighing sound, 
which will ever be the background in our memory 
of tropical voices. The foxes of this region were no 
ghosts, but given to frequent sharp barking and silent, 
nervous scurrying up and down our little glade. 

«4 271 #* 

:::::::::*• TWO BiRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ^ife:::::::: 

Hardly were we settled for the nig'lit, w^lieii a low, 
distant moaning drew us outdoors, just in time to hear 
the full chorus of a band of coyotes, the lonesomest 
sound — save the cry of a loon — in the world. The 
coyote is a cowardly, sneaking wild dog, afraid to face 
iiny creature of size, but nevertheless the coyote has a 
voice which sends the shivers up and down one's spine. 
Out at the end of the open glade we spied several dusky 
forms against the sky-line, and from one of these arose 
a long-drawn, hopeless howl. Then the others joined 
in and the sounds quickened and shortened and rose in 
chorus, until the air was rent with a frantic climax of 
ycips, each animal striving to outdo the others. The 
residt was demoniacal, and yet in perfect keeping with 
the wild surroundinos. 

Every evening about six o'clock (never varying more 
than five minutes either way) a horde of tiny bats 
rained down upon our camp, but whence they came 
we could never discover. Six or seven hundred, as if 
at a given signal, poured out of the dusk and dashed 
low through the tangle of vines past the tents. Our 
faces were fanned continuously by their wings, yet 
never did they strike, or even graze, any object. So 
thick were they that every sweep of the butterfly- 
net enclosed one or more. Is there any living creature 
with a more grotesque and fiendish expression than a 
bat ! Their immense, many-lobed ears, the curious 
leaves of skin on the nose and cheeks, the tiny, evil 

«4 272 #» 

::::::::3gr THE TROPICS m:::::::: 

eyes, and the cruel, grinning- mouth, with its many 
sharp-pointed teeth, which gnash in impotent rage, as 
one holds captive the diminutive imp ! After all the 
bats had passed and vanished, they would sweep back 
again, finding our little glade a profitable hunting- 
ground. A stone thrown up drew a score of the little 
creatures in its wake, as they mistook it for some large 
flying insect. After lingering with us for a short time, 
the bats dispersed, flying, who knows where, into the 
dark night. 

Not far from the camp, well up on the hillside, was 
a small-mouthed crevice which opened into a large dark 
cavern. This might have been the home of these bats, 
but the air within was so foul that exploration was 

In the dim, flickering light, where the flare of our 
cooking-fire melted into the all-surrounding darkness, 
we sometimes saw strange dark creatures leaping and 
running. Noiselessly they sped here and there, like 
wandering shadows. When we finally caught one, we 
found them to be great hairy-legged spiders, forbid- 
dino^-lookino- and with iaws suooestive of the taran- 
tula. We heeded them not and they never troubled 
us, nor did the scorpions which we unearthed now and 
then in the folds of our tent, both the common kind 
and a small species of Whip Scorpion. 

After the passing of the bats came an owl concert, 
several o;ruff voices callino- to each other from tree to 

■«?• 278 -^ 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO ;?!!?::::::::: 

tree, though never a feather did they show to us. 
Soon after dark the wild kindred of these tropical 
jungles awakened and came forth from all the nests 
and holes and crevices and hollows in which they 
had slept out the day. Snug in our tents we listened 
to the sharp squeaks of the vampires, following their 
lesser brethren, but on more sanguinary quests. The 
coyotes' chorus rose and died away ; the thin bark- 
ing of the Gray Foxes followed, like an echo of the 
coarser sound. Then the cordon of creatures drew 
closer and closer around our camp. There were 
always many stray bones and scraps which we left 
scattered about on purpose, and the scent of these 
reached, and unerringly directed, scores of keen little 
moist muzzles. 

How exciting it was to lie and listen quietly to the 
soft 2)at ! ^9rt^ ! of scurrying feet ! We occasionally 
crept to the tent-flap, or to some one of our little ob- 
servation holes, to see how correctly our imagination 
had interpreted the sounds. The quick crunching trot 
of an armadillo was always easy to distinguish, but 
that scuffling and scraping must surely be a fox or a 
very large raccoon or perhaps even some larger, fiercer 
creature ! A glance outside showed the originator of 
all this commotion to be the tiniest of white-breasted 
Wood Mice ! Again, when no sound was audible, a 
stealthy look revealed a pair of exceedingly long-tailed 
Mexican Opossums, ambling silently about near by. 

"• «4 274 -^ 

::::;::::^ THE TROPICS Bj:::::::: 

What cowards they are ! Once we caught a greedy 
one in broad daylight, dragging away a heavy piece of 
meat. As he caught sight of us, the meat dropped 
from his jaws and he fell over in a dead faint, simulat- 


ing a death spasm. I hastened to photograph him, 
knowing the ways of an opossum too well to feel any 
sympathy with his apparent agony. Then we hid and 
watched. Gradually the glaze passed from his half- 
closed eyes, he raised his head and cautiously stood 
upright. Again and again he hungrily eyed the meat, 
but at last some terror seized him, and he scampered 
away to the jungle as fast as his flat-soled feet could 
carry him. 

«4 275 ^ 

:::::::;:^; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*:::::::« 

Not only were we made aware of the presence of 
many creatures about our camp at night by their 
shadows, the sounds of their footsteps, and their voices, 
but musky scents were wafted abroad, pungent and 
penetrating, or deHcate and barely perceptible. Twice 
when a musky odour filled the air, I caught a glimpse 
of a long, undulating, weasel-like creature. 

One night a band of little carnivores w^ere making 
merry over the remains of some squirrels and doves 
which had furnished our supper. Suddenly there was 
an utter cessation of all sounds, and for a full minute 
all was strangely quiet. Then a new sound came to 
our ears. We had never heard anything like it, and 
yet we shuddered. Why, we did not know, unless at 
its mystery. 

A soft slithering, as if something were scraping over 
the coarse sand and pebbles past our tent. The moon 
was bright, and I opened the tent-flap and looked out. 
Not a living thing was in sight, not a sound save 
an occasional click from a Barn Owl flying above on 
silent wings. The strange noise grew louder, and soon 
from the darkness a long, undulating form appeared. 
A great Boa was making its way to the water. The 
great creature was harmless, this we well knew, al- 
though measuring fully ten feet in length ; but the 
sight of this huge serpent, unconscious of being 
watched, passing slowly on some errand of its wild 
life, through its native jungle, was thrilling. How 

«4 276 ^ 

:::::::;SE THE TROPICS aej;::::::: 

keen must be the senses of the smaller creatures to 
take alarm, so long before our dull hearing told of the 
Boa's approach ! It passed, and, flowing smoothly as 
a current of water, vanished in the pale moonlight. 
How lithe and full of subtle, irresistible power it 
seemed ; one of the masters of the jungle, confident 
and unafraid ! The Mexicans have an unreasonino; 
terror of these culabras, as they call them, attributing 
to them all manner of terrible characteristics. With 
the exception of some rattlers which we saw near the 
Chapala marshes, and those which we heard while 
riding over the trail, this was the only snake we en- 
countered in Mexico. No, there was one other, a tiny, 
slender, tree-snake [OxyheJls acuinhiatus), harmless, 
and of a most delicate tint of green. When he was 
discovered he was wrapped in deep slumber, the cause 
of which, as I later found, was his recent dinner, con- 
sisting of a good-sized lizard {Cneniidoj^hoi'us). 

The terrors of serpents, tropical insect scourges, 
and other dangers of which we had been forewarned, 
existed, so far as our experience went, entirely in the 
minds of our friends in the North. 

The night following the vision of the Boa, we were 
surprised to hear some creature trot up to the very 
tent, sniff audibly, and scratch impatiently at the can- 
vas. It then proceeded to the other tent, some twenty 
feet away, wherein w^ere our provisions and our young 
Mexican cook. One glance was enough to know why 

«4 277 #* 

:::::::::^x. TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"""" 

this creature exceeded his fellows in boldness and 
reckless audacity. There, endeavouring to find an 
opening in the tent, was the largest skunk I had ever 
seen. There was little time to consider what was the 
best thing to do. The head of the animal was already 
under the tightly pegged canvas. Calling to Ricardo 
to retreat to the front end of the tent, I emptied both 
barrels of the shotgun at the bundle of black and 
white fur, which the moonlight revealed. Good for- 
tune was with us, and the force of the discharge 
hurled the dreaded creature down a declivity, and our 
provision tent and cook were safe. 

We later found that skunks were quite abundant, 
but none so hungry, or so foolhardy, as this grand- 
sire of the MeiiMtis. Among its fellow animals the 
skunk reigns supreme, all giving way before its flaunt- 
ing, conspicuous tail. As they trot about among the 
dark fronds and vines, they are exquisite little crea- 
tures in colour and in actions, but this is truly a case 
where " distance lends enchantment." 

Several times we heard in the distance the screams 
of some one of the cat tribe. Just about dark, a few 
days after making camp, as I was bringing an oUa of 
water from the spring, a large animal half scrambled, 
half fell from the top of a sapling and scampered away 
through the underbrush. The thought, " cat ! " was 
dismissed, when the clumsiness of the creature was 
apparent, but it was not long before we became better 

«4 278 ^ 

:::::::::«? THE TROPICS as.""""' 

acquainted with a Coati Mondi, for such it proved to 
be. It is a dark brown animal, some three feet in 
length and coon-like in build, except for a remarkably 
long: snout and tail. 

A colony of these Coatis lived among the rocks not 
far from our camp, and every evening they started 
out on their foraging expeditions. They did not join 
their cousins the Raccoons and Ring-tailed Cats about 
our tents. When they came out about dusk, they all 
trooped down to the water's edge and drank thirstily, 
then washed their faces, coon-fashion, and combed 
their handsome fur with their long claws. They ap- 
peared to feed upon lizards and berries and they were 
also very fond of a certain kind of hard, round fruit. 
When four or five of them were among the branches 
of a small sapling, the young tree suffered severely. 
They hunted mice in the open spaces of the woods, 
and I sometimes saw several crouched here and there, 
ready for the first signs of life among the leaves. 
With a dog they were easily treed, and they fought 
fiercely when cornered. When playing and leaping 
about each other, they uttered low harsh grunts, and 
we never heard any other utterance. The Mexicans 
delight to hunt these Coati Mondis, treeing them with 
dogs, and killing them with revolvers. They work 
themselves up to a high pitch of excitement, shout- 
ing, as a kind of hunting-cry, "Adios Tejonf" — the 
latter word beino; the Mexican name of the animal. 

«4 279 > 

::;::::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"-"" 

The Raccoons, the Ring-tailed Cats and the Coati 
Mondis are all expert climbers, and the birds must 
indeed be careful in selecting their nightly roosts. I 
noticed that instead of choosing perches near the main 
branches or trunks of the trees as is usual in the North, 
they preferred the more slender twigs toward the top, 
showinjr less fear of owls than of terrestrial enemies. 
If near the ground, they chose some dense, thorny 
tangle, impenetrable to even a hungry coon. 

How perfectly the actions and the general iiiien of 
these nocturnal creatures reflect the efficiency of their 
means of defence ! The life of the little mice, the prey 
of all, is one great fear ; they nibble, wash their fur, 
scamper about, but ever Avitli large, fearful eyes, ever 
Avitli feet braced to spring to the protection of their 
holes. The opossums start at every sound and slink 
tremblingly away. The Coatis make little show of 
defence, but, when there is any avenue of escape, flee 
quickly. The Ring-tailed Cats turn a moment and 
bare their teeth in a defiant snarl, before taking to flight. 
The armadillos potter serenely on their way, heeding 
little to right or left, respectful of others' rights, but 
calmly confident in their tooth-and-claw-proof armour 
of scales. The skunk alone dares to herald his pre- 
sence with flourishing tail. No haste, no terror marks 
his gait. He rolls along with an impudently noncha- 
lant air, daring any to oppose his path. " I am Skunk ! " 
reads his demeanour ; " I am small, slow of foot, and 

<4 280 #» - 

::::::::3K^ THE TROPICS ^fe:::;:::: 

of little strength. I have no armour, and my teeth and 
claws are too weak to be feared, hut — do not anger 
me ! " And all the creatures withdraw from his path. 
If one be so bold as snarlingly to hold his ground, 
an impatient stamp of the foot shows the rising wrath 
of the black and white one, and, unopposed, he goes 
on his way. 

The hoarse cries of the omnipresent macaws awak- 
ened us in the morning and flocks of the beautiful 
lavender-feathered Amazon Parrots assembled at the 
water to quench their thirst. They then returned to 
chatter and clamber about the trees near by and 
to crane their necks from side to side, utterly unable to 
satisfy their curiosity concerning us. 

The macaws were remarkably regular in their move- 
ments. Early each morning a half-dozen passed over- 
head to the westward and each evening the great birds 
returned in pairs by the same route, and perched for 
several minutes on a particular dead limb, some distance 
up the cliff. There they conversed in low gutturals 
and preened each other's plumage, before passing on 
to their nightly roost. Half-past five o'clock, almost to 
the minute, saw them on this perch. We could predict 
to within a few minutes their appearance around the 
farthest turn of the cliff. These great birds are called 
guacamayo by the Mexicans, who believe that they 
never descend to the ground, except in the month of 
May, and then only to feed on a certain kind of hard 

«4 281 ^ 

iiiiir^i; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*::::::::: 

nut. Certain it was that much of their food consisted 
of nuts which had a rind Hke stone itself, but which 
their powerful mandibles crushed with ease. 

The most abundant birds in this locality were the 
beautiful yellow and black Mexican Caciques, great 
tropical orioles, which are so characteristic a feature 
of equatorial countries. As in the virile warmth of 
Mexico many things are carried to an extreme, which, 
in the North, are developed but moderately, so with 
the nest of the orioles. Our Baltimore Oriole builds a 
long, shapely purse, deep-cradled and elm-swung, where 
its eggs and young are exposed to but few dangers. It 
is said that in the south of the United States, owing 
to the increase of heat, the nests are shallower, more 
vireo-like. Yet in the tropical heat of Mexico, the 
nests of the orioles are three and four feet in depth, 
hung from the tips of branches and waving in every 
breath of air. They are finely woven of reeds, oj)en- 
meslied, but tough and difficult to tear. A small 
entrance at the toj) leads down through the long, narrow 
neck to the globular nest-chamber at the bottom. 

The morning flight of these calandrias, as the 
Mexicans call them, was one of the delights of our 
camp-life. Jet-black birds they were, long crested, with 
brilliant yellow shoulders, lower back, and tail, save the 
two inner feathers. The ivory-like beaks were long 
and needle-like, as such a master weaver's should be. 
They came from the northward, as if the bats of the 

*i 282 #> 

::::::::He THE TROPICS aK"""" 

night before had been transformed by some witch- 
ery of the morning' sun, and were returning in this 
guise. Hundreds of the yellow and black forms flashed 
through the trees, flock after flock of fifty or more, 


spreading through all the woods in smaller companies 
to feed. As they passed, their wings made a strange, 

«4 283 ^ 

:::::::;:^x TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B^""-'" 

whip-like, humming sound, which rose to a continuous 
murmur when a large number flew past at once. 

As the days passed and we still camped, unharmed, 
in the presence of the Vii-gin's image on the cliff, the 
poor Mexicans, who came with eggs or vegetables for 
sale, began to hold us in high esteem. My small 
medicine-chest and bottles of formaline aroused still 
greater respect and I found, to my surprise, that I had 
gained the reputation of being an infallible physician. 
It was pitiful to see the faith with which the poor 
Mexicans and Indians brought their sick children, or 
told me of their own troubles. I vowed that I knew little 
or nothing of therapeutics, and that I had only the simp- 
lest of remedies with me. But they shook their heads 
sadly and added a few centavos to the pittance Avhicli 
they had offered me, not believing my assertion that I 
did not want pay. These poor people had no idea of 
hygiene or of the curative properties of pure water. I 
did what I could with listerine and dioxide of hydrogen. 

There is a wide field for missionary work in this 
country, but a car-load of antiseptics and the doctrine 
of cleanliness should precede it. We, of the North, have 
not the slightest idea of the misery resulting from the 
ignorance of these people. One bright young fellow 
whom I tried to cure was literally dying of dirt. When 
taken sick the only treatment which his family advised 
was complete abstinence from the use of water ! His 
food, in the hottest of weather, was fried beans, pork, 

«4- 284 ^ 

:::::::;s5^ THE TROPICS ;aes:::::::: 

and tortillas. Indeed, the staple food of the people 
the whole year round is frijoles (fried heans), and 
tortillas — hard, flat, leathery cakes made of ground 
corn and water. 


The nights in this tropical country were cool and re- 
freshing. For an hour in the early morning there was 
no wind and the black flies drove us into our head- 
screens. With the sun came a breeze and the flies van- 
ished as if by magic. The heat increased until mid- 
day, although even then one could walk slowly about 

«4 285 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B:""-"- 

in the sun without feeling- 023pressed. But the birds 
and beasts set us a good example and we found it a 
good plan to sit quietly in the shade, writing or 
examining our specimens until about two o'clock. At 
five in the afternoon the black flies again appeared and 
held high revel for one hour, when the coming of the 
bats dispelled them. 

Six times we had excellent opportunities of observ- 
ing the great Guatemalan Woodpecker, with the beau- 
tiful scarlet head and crest flashing through the trees. 
No matter how much is given to a naturalist to enjoy, 
there is always something else for which he yearns. 
There were three things — all possible but improbable 
in this portion of Mexico — for which we were ever on 
the lookout — the grandest of all birds, the Harpy 
Eagle ; the most magnificent of woodpeckers, the 
Imperial ; and some stray monkeys which might have 
wandered so far north (they range still farther up on 
the eastern side of the country). But these things were 
withheld from us until another time. 

Everywhere through the underbrush scampered large 
squirrels with thick coats of grizzled fur (Sciurus 
jjollojms cervicaJis), while with them was a lesser num- 
ber of squirrel-like Spermophiles {Citelhts anmdatus), 
handsomely marked with gray above and bright rufous 
below. Both species live in burrows in the ground 
or in crevices of the cliff, near which our camp was 
pitched. There were literally hundreds of these frisky 

0^ 286 ^ 

THE TROPICS m::::::::: 

little rodents within a few hundred yards of our camp, 
and they were so tame that they would not move more 
than a few feet out of our way. 

They kept mostly on the ground, but occasionally 
a dozen would rush up a tree near camp and show that 
they had lost little acrobatic skill for all their usual 
terrestrial life. This particular tree was bare of leaves 
and fruit, save for one large oval pod. I climbed up 
one day and cut this off. It split open in my hand — 
a wooden pod or box filled 
with great, delicately tufted 
seeds, much larger, and with 
even more filmy plumes than 
our common milk-weed. In- 
deed I found that it was really 
a form of arboreal milk-weed 
[Calotrojns procera), not a 
native of Mexico, although 
growing here in some abun- 
dance, but imjjorted by some 
accident from Asia. 

We often saw what we 
thought was a species of wild 
cotton, with good-sized bolls ; 
but a closer investigation re- 
vealed the fact that the cotton 
was really a parasitic out- 
growth from the under side 

«4: 287 ^" 


:::::::::*? TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO jp"""" 

of the leaves — a curious kind of gall caused by the 
ovipositor of some insect. 

Certain charming little birds occasionally flitted 
close to the camp, never leaving the underbrush. They 
were active, insect-hunting warblers — grayish above 
and scarlet below, the bright hue bordered in front by 
a collar of black across the breast. Sometimes they 
mounted a twig and sang a brief, silvery song, but 
a sharp call-note marked their presence, when busy in 
quest of food. Only when the song was heard might 
we hope for a good look at their rosy feathers, as at 
other times they persisted in presenting their dull 
upper plumage. 

We called them Scarlet Ground Warblers, but Sci- 
ence demands Granatellus vefuistus, or at most only 
unbends enough to permit us to speak of them as the 
Du Bus Red-breasted Chat ! Fie on human names ! 
What poetry or significance does the appellation 
convey? What iota of the bird's habits or hint of the 
dainty song or form or colours is conveyed in those 
first syllables ? 

One very remarkable fruit attracted our attention. 
Scattered over the tree were many round, green seed- 
pods. These, when ripe, split open on one side and 
the slit gradually widened. The seeds within now pro- 
truded in two rows, bright scarlet at the base with 
black and white tips. The effect was most startling, 
for, as we stood below and looked upward, a thousand 
«4 288 ^ 

::::::::EiK THE TROPICS ais:::::::: 


mouths seemed to be grinning clown at us. When 
overripe the tooth-like seeds projected still farther 
from the fruit-hps, and the dripping sap added a new 
element of grotesqueness. Absurd as it may seem, the 
facial expression of the seed-pods changed from day to 
day ! When first beginning to open, a gentle smile 
characterized the fruit, and, as the gap widened and the 
seeds appeared, the semblance to a smile became a grin, 

^ ;289 > 

:::::j::^v two BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ia^:::::::: 

and at last a ferocious snarl ! Its botanical name is 
Tahermamontana palmerl. 

Band-tailed Pigeons and Red-bellied Ground Squir- 
rels were very abundant, and our larder never ran low. 
The Wliite-wingfed Doves were buildino- their rouoh 
platforms of sticks hig'h up in the Mimosa trees, but 
none were quite finished before we broke camp. 

Ever since we began to observe Mexican Nature, 
the Caracara Hawks had attracted our attention, but 
not until now had we seen them so numerous or so 
tame. They fairly equalled the vultures in numbers 
and excelled them in audacity. In habits they were 
vulturine, joining these birds in their feasts of car- 
rion and refuse. Indeed their almost bare face hints 
of such habits. They are interesting birds, and odd to 
very grotesqueness. Psychologically speaking, there 
is a very distinct line between the vultures and 
hawks. The latter are usually stolid and severe in 
their demeanour, while vultures are endowed with 
a spirit of rollicking fun and humour which is remark- 
able. Caracaras share this characteristic, and are 
the most playful of all birds in captivity. I have 
seen them frolic with each other in a most unbird-like 
manner, rolling over and over upon the ground, turn- 
ing somersaults until every feather seemed to be on 

We found them no less amusing in their wild state, 
and their antics over the bones which we strewed 

"4 290 #* 

;::::aiv THE TROPICS xife:::::::: 

about for their delectation were very anuising. Many 
of the positions Avhich they assumed would disgrace a 
taxidermist should he attempt to copy them. A favour- 



X. «A«5, - , -:>.,, 


ite pose Avhich I managed to catch with the camera 
was a stiff, wooden bracing of the feet, the bird rest- 
ing partly on the tip of the tail. When very hungry, 
and in view of a prospective banquet, the Caracara 
had a fine, almost noble bearing. The body was held 

«4 291 ^ 

:::::::::*? TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B-""-" 

in a low, hawk-like attitude, the crest rose and fell 
nervously, and the eyes were bright and piercing- ; 
but when sated with food and resting, it seemed 
wholly another bird. The position was then very up- 
riglit, the head drawn down, the eyes half closed, 
and when all the cactus tops in sight were thus sur- 
mounted, the effect was most singular. The senses of 
the Caracaras seemed not so keen as those of the vul- 
tures, and the former birds were, in a sense, partly 
parasitic on their ig-noble associates, — the vidtures, 
— following and watching them closely. When some 
prey was spied, the Caracaras forcibly took the first 
and best share. 

There was great excitement among the vultures and 
Caracaras when the dead skunk was discovered, some 
distance from our camp. A great number collected 
at once, but were rather shy about approaching the 
dreaded animal. The Caracaras led the way and 
walked slowly toward the skunk, when, suddenly 
seized with terror, they turned and ran off at full gal- 
lop, spreading the alarm and scattering the whole mob 
of vultures. At last hunger overcame all prejudice 
and they attacked the carcass. To my surprise a pair 
of skunks unexpectedly appeared at this moment, and 
trotted quickly out from the underbrush. They rushed 
at the feathered scavengers, who fled in wild dismay, 
this time taking to the tree-tops. The skunks stamped 
angrily and sniffed at their dead companion, and then 

<^. 292 ^ 

::::::::sE THE TROPICS xfe:::::::: 

disappeared as suddenly as they had come. In a day 
or two the bones of the skunk were picked clean. It 
was interestino' to see what creatures were attracted bv 
carrion. I was surprised to see opossums come fre- 
quently to the scattered remains and roll upon them. 
Beautiful butterflies, with wings shot with lines of 
purple, hovered and alighted upon the ill-smelling 
bones, and lingered in the vicinity all day, as if the 
odour were that of some exquisite flower. In fact, cer- 
tain flowers, much frequented by some insects, are 
known to exhale most unpleasant perfumes, and prob- 
ably these insects were examples of that group. 

The butterflies at this season of the year were very 
interesting, — not from an entomological collector's 
standpoint, however, since all were bedraggled and 
torn. They were the survivors of the past season, 
barely holding their own, and their wings testified to 
many narrow escapes from birds. Out of fifteen butter- 
flies, which I captured one morning, all but two 
showed evidences of attacks by birds. In no less than 
twelve instances the tear was in some marginal spot of 
brilliant colour, showing the value of these markings 
on the extreme edges of the Avings, in attracting the 
attention of the assailant from the more vital parts of 
the insect. 

Every walk about our camp revealed new flowers or 
seed-pods of beautiful colours and strange shapes. We 
longed for the key to the inter-relations of plants and 

«4 293 ^ 

:::::::::C TWO bird- LOVERS IN MEXICO B:""::" 

insects, for hints concerning- the complicated depend- 
ence of all the life about us, — bird on insect, insect 
on plant, plant on both, which ever links even the 
extremes of Nature. 

Sitting in the shade of our tents during the heat of 
midday, we became interested in a flowering vine which 
twined up the young trees to which our tent-ropes 
were fastened. We found that it was a species of Birth- 
wort {Aristolochia), related to the Dutchman's-Pipe of 
the United States. 

Until we learned its affinities, we called it the 
Trumpet-Trap Vine. It was an interesting illustration 
of the carrion blossoms which I mentioned a few para- 
graphs back. The odour was not strong, and though 
there were hundreds of flowers on the vine, we could not 
detect the unpleasant scent unless we carefully smelled a 
number of blossoms at once. They gave forth a faint 
odour of musk, very different from the odours of other 
species of this family, which are tainted with the scent 
of carrion, or rotten fish, while a West Indian variety 
has an odour exactly like decayed tobacco. Slight as 
was the scent, it seemed more than once to attract 
burying beetles, which we noticed bumping clumsily 
against the flowers, misled in their search for a suit- 
able place to deposit their eggs. These were unin- 
vited interlopers, which could benefit neither the 
blossoms nor themselves, and which soon went hum- 
ming off into the woods. 

«4- 294 #* 

::::::::3g THE TROPICS 3^:::::::: 

The delicate-stemmed Trumpet-Traps twined and 
twisted their way high overhead and hung in festoons 
about us. The vine had rounded, heart-shaped leaves, 
and the long tubular flowers were of a dull yellowish 
hue, reminding one in their shape somewhat of minia- 
ture Jack-in-the-Pulpit spathes. These flowers were 
indeed tiny, compared to the blossoms of certain South 
American species of this group, which are so large 
that native children slip them over their heads, like 
caps with tall, pointed crowns. 

After a little patient watching and a little dissection 
of blossoms, we learned much of the interesting life 
history of this vine, and we later verified the signi- 
ficance of the details in Kerner's '' Natural History of 
Plants." One thing became apparent at the outset ; 
namely, that the black flies had at least one other mis- 
sion in life besides that of trying, for a short time 
morning and evening, to penetrate our head-nets. The 
little rounded lobe at the entrance of the Trumpet-Trap 
flower is like a doorstep, forming a convenient and 
safe alighting-place for any small fly or insect which 
may be attracted by the odour from within. 

Let us follow the adventures of one of these trouble- 
some black midges, which, for all we could see, were 
blood brothers to those of the Canadian backwoods. 
Our midge alights on the lobe of the Trumpet-Trap 
flower, which is just opened and as yet unfertilized. 
The little fellow twiddles his antennae ecstatically, as 

«4 295 •> 


the (to him) delicious musky scent is wafted out. He 
makes his way upward and at once finds himself at 
the entrance of a long narrow tube, thickly beset Avith 
small hairs, whose tips, all pointing inward, meet at 
the centre. Before he enters he may, if he chooses, 
turn about and fly away, but once within he is doomed. 
" Lasciate ogni S2)eranza, vol cli entrate, " — All 
hope abandon, ye who enter in, — might have been fitly 
inscribed upon the flower's portal. Strive and struggle 
as he may, the sharjj-pointed hairs only force him 
onward the faster, until the tunnel widens out into a 
circular chamber. This is free from the sharp recurved 
hairs and it is comfortably warm, in addition to which 
the soft-walled cells lining the little prison-chamber 
are, in midge estimation, good eating. For perhaps 
two days the little fellow is thus confined : then the 
anthers of the flower burst open and liberate a quantity 
of meal-like pollen. This is indeed a feast, and the 
black midge falls to and gorges himself, at the same 
time getting his body thickly covered with the powdery 

But even the most delectable dainties cloy at last, 
and, though the prison-cell has provided him with 
warmth, shelter, and food, yet the little midge becomes 
restless and seeks to escape. Sooner or later he finds 
the tunnel opening, through which he found his way 
into the blossom, and here a strange thing happens. 
The stockade of hairs no longer bars the way. The 

"4 296 #» - 

::::::::sSv: THE TROPICS B:""-- 

inscription would have been false after all ; all hope 
need not have been left behind. A few steps take him 
to the portal in the outer air, and his tiny Avings bear 
him away into the sunlight. 

But the memories of the feast in the magic chamber 
overcome all remembrance of the forced confinement ; 
and our midge soon seeks another newly opened 
blossom with its inviting doorstep. As in the case of 
the first flower, the anthers are closed as yet, but the 
stigma is waiting for the fertilizing pollen from another 
blossom. In comes the black midge, urged on by 
a similar circle of recurved hairs. As he enters the 
chamber, the pollen on his body brushes against the 
stio-ma and the mission and real meaning of all this 
elaborate entertainment for the midge is perfectly 
accomplished. The desires of the midge were all 
selfish ; and even the apparently gratuitous luncheon 
provided by the blossom was only a means to the all- 
important end of providing for the seeds of the next 

But the magic goes a step farther. When the midge 
emerges from this blossom, if some pleasant memory 
should attract him back to the first flower, he would 
find himself rebuffed — the door locked in his face 
as it were. No sweet musky odour comes from the 
cells, now shrivelled and dried, and the stepping- 
stone lobe of the spathe, instead of being spread out, 
is withered and bent down across the opening, shut- 

«4 297 > - 


ting out any would-be intruder. Thus the seeds are 
allowed to ripen in safety ; and a useless, and indeed 
harmful, competition with unfertilized blossoms is 

Harmful self-fertilization within one flower is avoided 
by the delay of a day or two in the opening of the 
anthers, the stigma meanwhile having abundant oppor- 
tunity to be fertilized by the incoming insects, for two 
or three midges are sometimes prisoners in the same 

But the flowers were not entirely free from molest- 
ation, and occasionally a small troop of birds would 
spend some time about, or even on, our tents, tearing 
the blossoms apart and devouring the unfortunate 
midges, sometimes even swallowing the whole blossom. 
Black-capped Vireos occasionally swarmed through the 
underbrush about us, and I once counted as many as 
thirty Nashville Warblers in sight at one time. On 
this vine we saw our tamest Townsend Warblers. They 
had long puzzled us by keeping to the tops of the 
highest trees, but here they came to our very tent-doors, 
and joined the Nashvilles in their hunt for midges. It 
was the frequent visits of these birds which first drew 
our attention to the curiously constructed blossoms, 
and the first thought was that these were like Pitcher 
Plants, carnivorous, entrapping the midges in order to 
extract nutriment from their dead bodies. 

The study which we gave to these flowers of the 

- «# 298 ^ "• 

::::::::ae THE TROPICS ae:::::::: 

Trumpet-Trap Vine, growing so close to our tent, only 
showed what marvels were awaiting investigation on 
every hand in this strange wonderland. 




|0T far from our camp was a tangle and 
maze of vines and fig-trees, through which 
the brook flowed softly, and here Ave 
spent whole days, quietly watching the 
tropical life going on about us. 

As we parted the thick screen of leaves one day, 
a glance into the dim vista ahead showed a spot of im- 
maculate white — a Little Blue Heron in its snowy 
juvenile plumage, standing motionless in the shallow 
water. The bird's quick ear caught a swish of the 
twigs and it glanced suspiciously in our direction. For 
a minute it stood straight and slim, then spread its 
wings and lightly and gracefully drifted away over the 
water, its blurred reflection doubling its beauty, until 
a low-branching cottonwood intervened. 

At the first step forward, three White-winged Doves 
burst from the underbrush ahead, and with a clatter 
and rush of wings left the woods, much to our relief, 
for these stupid creatures never take to flight until one 
is almost upon them, and then tear off with such an 
uproar that the birds, for many yards around, are made 
suspicious and uneasy. But withal these doves were 

<^ 300 |» 

.•.■:::::::C THE HOT lands OF THE PACIFIC m::::::::: 

beautiful birds, and when their plump, fawn-coloured 
forms would go humming away, brightened with three 
(almost) semicircles of white on wings and tail, the eye 
was delighted. 

A sharp chut ! came from my very feet and up sprang 
a bird, also with three flashes of white, but on noise- 
less pinions. It sailed about in a low, narrow circle and 
plumped suddenly down among the dead leaves, fifteen 
feet away. It was a Parauque, a strange name for a 
strano'e bird ! It has the white winof-bars of a nioht- 
hawk, but its general colouration and actions are more 
those of a whip-poor-will. The marbled and mottled 
plumage of these ground birds is as beautiful as it is 
indescribable. A woodcock has similar patterns. It 
is the feathered essence of dead leaves, moss, bits of 
fungi, broken twigs, decayed wood and lichens. Par- 
auques were very abundant in this locality, and we sel- 
dom took a walk without flushing a dozen or more. 
The actions of the one which I aroused in the tangle 
were typical of all. It almost invariably faced me each 
time it alighted, holding its head low, and thus hiding 
the white throat. The dark, lustrous eyes closed until 
they became two narrow slits. As I flushed it again 
and again, it once or twice alighted broadside toward 
me, but at my next movement toward the bird, it 
bounced up like a ball and oriented itself. The bird 
refused to leave the tangle, preferring to rise and 
settle a score of times, as I crossed and recrossed the 

«4 301 > 


limited area in pursuit of other birds. Numerous as 
these birds were, all about our camp, we never once 
heard the nocturnal cry, which has given them their 
odd name of Parauque. 

Our favourite tangle was seldom without its comple- 
ment of Yellow-bellied Trogons — generally a closely 
associated flock of three or four individuals, betraying 
their presence by an occasional soft cluck ! They are 
very similar to the rose-coloured trogons of our former, 
more elevated camp, but the rose is replaced with a 
delicate lemon yellow. These birds fed upon small 
berries which grew on slender twigs, too slight to sup- 
port the weight of the birds. Their custom was to dart 
to the panicle of fruit, hover in front of it for a mo- 
ment, snatch a berry, and return to their perch to eat 
it. When several of the trogons were feeding upon 
one small tree, it was a beautiful — a brilliant sight. 
From the weakness and small size of their feet and 
legs, this habit of feeding upon the wing would seem 
an inevitable one — as in the case of kingfishers and 

W^hen at rest, their backs were always turned toward 
us, iridescent green in the male bird and uniform gray 
in its mate. When they left their perch, they fell for- 
ward, making a short drop straight downward, show- 
ing all the beauty of yellow and white and green. As 
suddenly, they then flashed upward, and none but dull 
hues were visible. 

-«^- 302 ^ 

:::::::::C THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC ;*::::::::: 

These are birds of the true tropics, comparable with 
no Northern family. Classed between the cuckoos and 
kingfishers, they resemble neither in appearance. The 
hollow curvature of the wing-feathers of a Bob-White 
is a characteristic so exaggerated in a trogon that the 
primaries wrap close about the body, rather like the 
skinny, clutching fingers of a bat than like the feathers 
of a bird's wing. Its feet and legs, feathered down to 
the very toes, are so tiny, that when the bird is perch- 
ing, they are never visible. The Yellow-bellied Trogon 
is more silent than its congener, the Coppery-tailed, 
which we saw higher up in the mountains. Its common 
utterance is a soft cluck ! When suddenly alarmed, it 
utters a sharp, rolling cr-cr-cr-cr-ck ! which, softened 
and mellowed, is the ordinary call-note of the Coppery- 
tailed species. 

Trogons always sit very upright on the branch, their 
tails hanging straight downward, but jerked violently 
forward at every cluck ! The tail-feathers are so abruptly 
truncated that one almost wonders if these birds have 
not learned something of the Motmot's habits ! 

As I w^as watching a trogon one day, something drew 
my eyes aside to a small vista among the leaves, hardly 
four feet from my face, and there, framed in the clear 
opening, almost within reach of my hand, sat an ex- 
quisite Motmot, his pendulum rackets swinging from 
side to side — beating time to his mood. His soft red 
eyes, glowing from the centre of his great head, lent 

«# 303 ^ 


a strange, unreal air to his whole appearance. Calmly 
he eyed me, never moving* until I reached out my hand 
toward him. 

A certain wide-branching tree, covered with berries, 
was never wholly deserted by birds, and generally its 
foliage was in constant motion, as its feathered visitors 
climbed among the leaves and fruit. Our hearts were 
gladdened by the sight of a flock of robins, but a 
second glance showed them to be strange birds, garbed 
in familiar dress and with the blood-mark of our robin 
in every action. But the hue of the breast of our 
robin covered the back as well, in these birds, giving 
us a Red-backed Robin, a very distinct species. From 
its scientific name we should call it the Yellow-billed. 
In every flock of twenty or more, there were several 
large, sombre-hued individuals, of varying shades from 
head to tail — veritable ghosts of giant robins. But 
whether a robin's plumage be faded to very ashes, or 
dyed a flaming scarlet, the sidewise cock of the head, 
the upright carriage, the well-known chirp penetrate 
all diso'uises. In a British volume this sombre bird 
is catalogued as the "Sorry Thrush," — truly a literal 
translation of Menda tristls, but surely Gray-breasted 
Robin is preferable ! 

These races of Gray-breasts and Red-backs may be, 
speaking from an evolutionary point of view, fore- 
fatliers, cousins, or descendants of our Red-breasts. To 
us, they seemed unreal copies, mingling the familiar w ith 

•»# 304 ^ 

:::::::;:C THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC m::::::::: 

the strange in a way which was most fascinating to 
ns, knowing', as we had heretofore, only our American 
Robin. I had never imagined that our beloved bird 
could have any imitators, he always seems so distinctly 
individual ; there exists such a gulf between him and 
even his near relative the Wood Thrush. 

Another familiar form slipped around the dead bark 
of a broken limb and with a penetrating chirp greeted 
me as a friend — a Black and White Creeper in full 
plumage. There was no mistake this time. Our little 
feathered countryman was on his way northward, per- 
haps the first of his kind to feel the thrilling impulse 
tuo-o'incr him along-, althousfh the same instinct would 
as surely restrain him until the deep snows, which then 
covered his summer home, were melted and the cocoons 
and hibernating insects were bare and beginning to 
quicken in the sunshine of the coming month. 

On the side of the tang-le farthest from the brook 
was an impenetrable natural barrier of thorny bushes, 
the favourite haunt of a half-dozen wrens. They were 
Oak Forest Wrens, although they certainly did not 
deserve their name in this low country. Perhaps they 
had a nest in preparation, for they were very fearless 
and scolded me roundly, uttering a harsh wren-like 
chatter, whenever I approached. Now and then their 
clear liquid song was heard, a ringing Chut'-e-ty ! 
Chut'-e-ty ! Clmt'-e-ty ! bringing to mind the strain of 
our Carolina Wren. 

«4 305 ^ 

:::::::::=>v TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-""" 

Finches of various kinds flitted amono- the under- 
brush, c'Hnging- to the seed panicles or scratching among 
the dead leaves. The most abundant were the soft- 
chirping Black-headed Grosbeaks, looking in their 
winter garb like giant sj)arrows. With these were 
many gray and brown-headed Sinaloa Sparrows of the 
southern sj)ecies — closely related to the Texas Sparrow. 
Hepatic Tanagers and Turquoise-fronted Buntings 
mino'led with the others in the bushes or among- the 
hanging vines. When a female of the latter species 
hopjDed into view, the thought at once came — is it 
possible that a female English Sparrow has penetrated 
even to this wild region ! But the mate of the little 
brown bird soon followed, resplendent in blues of 
every hue — marine, cobalt, azure, turquoise ! And 
our fears were laid to rest. 

Birds have a wonderful faculty of dodging^ when in 
full flight, through thick underbrush and vines without 
ruffling so much as a feather's tip ; but in this land of 
spines and thorns they sometimes come to grief. Oc- 
casionally a tiny half-dried skeleton clattered its little 
bleached bones in the wind, or again we would come 
across a bird which had recently been entangled and 
thus met its death, perhaps a beautiful Painted Redstart. 

One tragedy of this kind will long remain in our 
memories. Of all birds hummingbirds w^ould seem 
most exempt from the myriad dangers which threaten 
the race of feathered beings — the dangers from 

«4 306 A* 

:::::::::^ THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACHTC m::::::::; 


owls, snakes, the elements, and a hundred others. 
The tiny brig-ht eyes of the humming-birds, their 
marvellous vibrating wings, and their small size protect 
them from haAvks and all such birds of prey. They 
fight fiercely among themselves, sometimes to the death, 
but it is very strange that these mites of the air are 
not more numerous — their food, the tiny insects in 
fiowers, is so abundant^ and their nests are so well 

A few months before we reached Mexico a certain 
hummingbird had been tightly curled up in the tiniest 

■■- <4; 307 ^ 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B:"""" 

of white eggs. A little later he had apjDeared as an 
ugly, naked, short-billed hummerling, sharing the cup 
of plant-down with his sister, and peering over the 
rim of the lichen-covered cradle. 

We saw him only in his death — the only time we 
have ever seen a hinnmingbird which had died from 
accident. The little fellow, not yet in his adult plum- 
age, had apparently attempted to snatch an insect from 
a bunch of burr-blossoms. Vibrating a little too near, 
one wing had become caught, and instantly the tiny 
body had been precipitated upon the mass of prickles, 
every struggle holding it but the tighter. 

At the southern jungle-edge of the tangle was a great 
fig-tree, all but throttled with a vine, which twined 
and knotted its mighty folds about the trunk and 
branches, until it was hard to say to which belonged 
the leaves, to which the fruit. Large currant-like ber- 
ries, Avith a black stone in each one, hung from the 
tendrils of the vine. The lessening vitality of the an- 
cient tree had attracted devastating insects, and its 
vine-shadowed and stranoled twios were wreathed in 
thousands of webs and caterpillar nests — a perfect 
feast for all birds, insectivorous and frugivorous. 

In this land overflowing with life, we found now 
and then evidences of tragedies, which had been 
enacted in the deep silence of the woods — piles of 
feathers, scattered bones, which told of pursuit and 
flight, battle, surrender, and death. But we were less 

«4 308 ^ 


:::::::::m THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC ;*::::::::: 

likely to take note of the struggles to the death, going 
on all about us, as the various forms of vegetation 
fought for space and light. Because the movements 
and the tightening of the great liana coils were slower 
than any serpent, no less was death in their grip. Oc- 
topus-like, they reached upward and dangled their 
tendrils over every twig, shutting out with their leaves 
the life-giving sunlight. 

These vines seemed of interminable length and of 
incalculable age. In certain places, huge regular coils 
lay along the ground, like giant hollow screws. A 
careful search showed that once these screws embraced 
some mighty tree, which, suffocated and killed, had 
given way and crashed to the ground, carrying with it 
its destroyer. Soon decay and insects attacked its 
fallen trunk and it sank and merged into the mould. 

The vine, unharmed, had bent pliantly, as its victim 
fell to earth, and with insatiable fingers reached out 
for other prey. When at last the first light touch of 
its delicate tendrils felt their way to another trunk, we 
could almost imao^ine a shudder of terror ao-itatins^ the 
doomed tree. And then the vine grew even more rapidly, 
vitalized by the decaying body of its first victim which 
was slowly falling into dust and loam. Here and there 
a sapling had been passed by the outreaching vine, as 
if it voluntarily sought a worthier prey. 

The new branches, which the trees sent out to escape 
the embrace of death, were pitiful. The trunk seemed 

<^ 311 ^ 

:::2« TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO ;*::::::- 

to buttress itself with aerial roots, as the weight of the 
vine dragged downward ever more heavily. The poor 
rooted giants appealed to us, as would birds or beasts 
suffering in the coils of a serpent, and more than once 
we released such a tree and gave it a new lease of life 
— centuries it may be — by severing the vine at its 
root. When, in the dead of night, the silence was 
sometimes broken by the distant fall of one of these 
trees, — a hissing crash followed by the dull roar of 
the fall, — our feelings went out in sympathy for the 
monarch which, for so many decades, had withstood 
earthquakes and storms, only to be vanquished by the 
insinuating foe, which had climbed up to the light of 
day by means of the tree's sturdy trunk. 

Another phase of the struggles between vine and 
tree was not uncommon. The vine would throw down 
numerous roots, which took a fresh hold, and thus, 
gradually, a dense interlacing of woody stems was 
wound about the tree, fretting the helpless trunk with 
an intricate network. The death of the imprisoned 
tree ensued, but, instead of falling, it was held in place 
by the vine and exposed to boring insects and Wood 
Ants, which speedily reduced it to sawdust. Often we 
saw such a framework of vines from which all signs of 
the tree had vanished. 

Yet all these strusfffles and deaths were mere inci- 
dents in the jungle life. The supremacy of the vine 
and the death of the tree were two facts which he who 

«4 312 #» 

:;::::;;»x THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC m::::;:::: 

ran might read. But the thousand and one influences, 
subtle, far-reaching, and powerful, which were woven 
into each such incident, could only be conjectured. The 
biography of a tropical tree has never been written. 
When it is, few books will equal it in interest. All the 
environment aids its young growth ; every influence is 
turned against it, when once it weakens. The rains, 
which nourish the surging sap, later filter into every 
crevice and rot the wood of its very heart. The myriads 
of insects, which, in its vigour, it has defied, now de- 
vour leaf and twig and bore it from bark to bark. The 
lichens, which before only enriched the loam at its 
roots, now bring swift decay to its noblest boughs. 

Long before our senses can perceive any lack of 
vigour, word has somehow been passed, and the allies 
of the fatal vine hasten, vulture-like, to take their 
part in the unequal struggle. We read of savages 
sometimes dressing their captives in most elaborate and 
brilliant clothing before putting them to death. So, 
when its fate is sealed, the tree occasionally bursts 
forth into gorgeous bloom — a mock splendour not 
its own. Such is the case when certain parasites, fol- 
lowing the track of the vine, fill the branches, each 
rooted deeply in the weakened wood, and living on the 
very life-sap of the tree. These parasites unfold great 
masses of deep scarlet blossoms, which light up the 
dark glades of the jungle. Unless a branch is cut off, 
and the section closely examined, the flowers would be 

«^ 313 ^ 



taken for those of the tree itself, so close is the union 
of the parasite and its host. 

Trees are very sensitive to their environment, and 
mould the effects of their surroundings into their 
growth. The stunted firs and spruces at the edge of 
the Bay of Fundy are permanent witnesses to the 
terrible winds and storms of past years ; every bough 
and twig reaching landward, away from the path of 
the blasts. Canadian balsams often orow so close to- 
gether that their bare stems all but touch, and make it 
impossible for even a rabbit to creep between, and here 
we see everywhere signs of the warfare which goes on 
in the forest. 

The reverence which we pay to age should not be 
denied to a tree, and when we see a mighty trunk up- 
lifted in these thick jungles, we should spare it a 
thous'ht of admiration when we consider the centuries 
of constant struffffle ao-ainst animate and inanimate 
foes, by which alone it has maintained its place and 
prestige. The great wild fig-trees, which are sometimes 
overcome by choking vines, occasionally begin life in 
a most novel way. A favourite nesting-site of wood- 
peckers is in the soft, pulpy branches of the organ 
cactus. If it hajjpens that a seed of the fig-tree be- 
comes lodged in one of these deserted nesting-holes, 
it soon sprouts in the mould at the bottom. The seed 
develops and sends a long, thread-like root-tendril to 
the ground, and the ensuing growth may become a 

«4 314 #» 

::::::::ax THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC m::::;:::: 

mighty tree, enveloping- the cactus, and spreading wide 
its branches in all directions. 

When once we begin to look for evidence of these 
silent struggles of the jungle, we find them on all sides, 
and so realistic do they appear, and so strongly do they 
appeal to our sympathies, that we are again and again 
reminded of the living forest of Avhich Dante wrote : 

" I heard on all sides lamentations uttered, 
And person none beheld I who might make them, 
So many voices issued through those trunks 
From people who concealed themselves from us ; 
Men once they were, and now are changed to trees." 

The most delightful time of day in our tropic tangle 
was early morning, and, indeed, where in the world is 
it not? At this time the air was cool and fresh, and 
the vistas along the brook were alive with birds, some 
bathing and drinking, others gleaning fish or tiny 
snails from its depths or borders. Little teetering 
sandpipers and Louisiana Water-thrushes were always 
in view, and the dainty Blue Heron seemed a regular 
habitue of this part of the stream. 

One morning a Black Hawk swept low through the 
branches and on out of sight. Hardly had he passed, 
when eight White Ibises veered around a bend in the 
stream and slowed up just abreast of where we were 
seated. Their pink legs were outstretched to alight, 
when one caught sight of us. He dashed up, and back 
on his track, and silently, except for a swish of wings, 

4 315 ^ 

:::::::::C TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO m::::::::: 

the other seven turned and followed. Their curved 
bills and long legs were bright pink and gleamed viv- 
idly, as the white cloud of birds winged its way north- 
ward over the tops of the palms. 

Having need of the skin and skeleton of a Black 
Hawk, I shot one of these birds not far from camp, 
and only when too late, I found that it was one of a 
pair which had built a nest overhanging the stream. 
Shortly after the death of her mate (for my specimen 
was a male bird) the female returned and alighted upon 
the nest. It was built in the top of one of the liana- 
encumbered trees, which was draped and hung with 
a thick mass of entangled vine-cordage. By pulling 
myself up these slender rope-like lianas, I was able to 
look down into the structure, without once touching 
the trunk or branches of the tree itself. The hawk 
left the nest as I reached it. I found nearly a bushel 
of rough sticks woven compactly together, and a thick 
lining of fresh willow leaves had been recently added, 
but there were no eggs. My regrets at having shot the 
male were needless, for the very next day I found that 
the bereaved bird had found a mate and both were 
carrying more leaves to add to the lining. 

In this same tangle, there once came to us one of 
those fortunate moments which remain so long in one's 
mind ; one of those settings around which memory 
groups the details and lesser happenings. A Belted 
Kingfisher rattled on a branch overhead, and the sight 

-4 316 #* 

:;:::::::^ THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC ;*::::::::: 

and sound quickened our breath. For an instant apple- 
trees, high river-banks, and a quiet mill-pond replaced 
palms, bamboos, and the dark, jungle-stained pool. But 
only for an instant, for, from upstream, a second king- 
fisher form came into view and swerved up from its 
water-skimming flight to a low perch across the pool. 
A little green and white Texas Kingfisher quirked his 
head downward, glanced quickly at us, as we smiled at 
his diminutive figure. As if to reproach our amusement, 
he dived like an arrow, splashed beneath the water, 
and returned to the perch with an inch-long minnow. 
Surprise must indeed have been written on our faces, as 
a third kingfisher — a giant of his race — flew swiftly 
toward us and perched near his pigmy cousin. How 
insio:nificant the Belted Kins^fisher now seemed ! He 
fairly shrunk before our eyes, as our gauge of de- 
velopment shifted to the newcomer, the great Rufous- 
bellied Kingfisher. To our eyes, the tw^o extremes 
seemed comparable to a sparrow and a raven. Two 
charges of shot and a millimetre rule would, doubtless, 
have shown this to be an exaggeration, but we were 
content to let them live and refer to our handbook for 

The big cousin was a handsome bird, with his warm 
red under parts set off by the bands of blue and white 
across his breast. We waited eagerly to hear his voice. 
But his rattle was not so clear nor so loud and pene- 
trating as that of our Belted Kingfisher. 

- ^ 317 ^ 

:::::::::^s TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B:."".:::: 

We shall never forget the trio of birds perching so 
near together — a small congress of all the species of 

kino-fishers which find their 
way into the southern part 
of our own country. The 
least of the three was the 
first to leave, soon followed 
by the Belted. The great 
Rufous bird looked about 
him, his eye rested upon the 
water, and without hesita- 
tion, he dived downward and 
rose with a six-inch fish from 
the pool. Verily I believe if 
the Belted Kingfisher had 
dived before he flew, he 
would have secured a three-inch minnow ! A mile or 
two from the tangle was a little dry, sandy arroyo, 
inhabited by a single Texas Kingfisher. There was 
no water near; nevertheless, here he might always 
be found, dashing after grasshoppers and butterflies 
and snatching up diminutive lizards, as skilfully as 
ever one of his race caught a fish. It was amusing to 
see him, after each of his sallies, flirt his plumage and 
wings, instinctively shaking imaginary drops of water 
from his feathers. 

As one walked through the tangle, a large dark ob- 
ject would sometimes loom up in front, suspended among 

oi- 818 -^ 


::::;::::*; THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC B:"":::: 

the branches, five or six feet from the ground. These 
were hard earthen ants' nests, roughly circular in 
shape and sometimes a yard or more in diameter. In 


several instances I found where parrakeets had bur- 
rowed deep into them, forming a chamber at the end 
of a long, narrow entrance. Whether they did this to 
feed upon the small architects, or whether they actually 

«4 319 ^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO :#:::::::;: 

used these curious structures as nests, I could not 

Now and then our old friends the Long-tailed Blue 
Jays visited our tangle, whereupon we promj)tly left it, 
knowing that their shrieks and cries would, for the 
present, put an end to the bird-study in that vicinity. 
Once, several of these annoying birds dashed into 
sight, wild with" excitement. Their longest tail-feathers 
were gone, and in general they presented a hopelessly 
bedraggled appearance, being apparently in full moult. 
The object of their persecution was a hawk, one of 
the finest of the Mexican birds of prey, and by far the 
most strikingly marked. It is well named the Laugh- 
ing Falcon, for at times its call is remarkably like the 
human expression of mirth. 

The colouring of the bird is a harmonious blending 
of brown, creamy buff, and white, but the most pro- 
minent characteristic, visible at a distance, is a broad 
band of black through the face and eyes, bringing 
instantly to mind the markings on the head of a rac- 
coon. We saw these hawks on the trail to Colima, 
sailing about, for hours at a time, high overhead. They 
are gentle birds, and when one was stunned and kept 
captive for a few days, it soon became tame and took its 
portion of food from our hands. 

The most beautiful of all the small birds was a bunt- 
ino". We christened him the Rainbow Buntino;-, but the 
books call him the Leclancher Bunting. These little 

«4 320 ^ 

::::::::Ss THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC m:;::::::: 

finches flitted through the underbrush in pairs, search- 
ing for insects and seeds among the leaves or mount- 
ing to the top of a small bush and giving voice to their 
joy in a little ditty, the attempt at which was most 
to be admired, for the twittering ended in promise. 
Their beauty and vivacity evade all description. A 
photograph would convey nothing of their charm. 
Try to imagine a little feathered sprite, less than five 
inches in length, with a crown of apple-green ; cheeks, 
back, wings, and tail of turquoise-blue; throat and 
under parts of clear lemon-yellow ; with a band of 
delicate orange across the breast ! His mate, who fol- 
lows him so faithfully and listens to his pitiful song 
so admiringly, has the greens and yellows in soft- 
ened, indistinct hues. Altogether they are charming 
little birds, living in a region where their beauty falls 
only upon such unappreciative eyes as those of vultures 
and coons. 

Half-wild cattle now and then roamed throuoh the 
surrounding jungle, Avatching us, wide-eyed, until we 
were out of sight. Their narrow, winding paths ren- 
dered accessible the densest and most briary thickets, 
fortunately for us. 

Each animal was invariably attended by a following 
of birds, which perched upon its back, or flew close to 
it through the bush. They were Groove-billed Anis, 
and they relieved the cattle of the ticks which cause 
the poor creatures such torment. The Anis also picked 

<^ 321 ^ 

:::::::::*• TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B--"""" 

up a good living of insects which were disturbed by 
the hoofs of the animals. When a steer began crop- 
ping the short grass of some jungle lawn, a circle of 
these slim black birds kept close to the muzzle of the 
beast. He seemed to recognize their useful offices and 
never attempted to molest them. They are strange, 
loose-jointed birds, their wings hanging flimsily and 
their long tails blowing about in the breeze, over their 
backs or between their legs. Even in flight, their wings 
and tails seem each moment about to fail in their 
respective functions. When their bovine comrades lay 
down to rest for the night, the Anis roosted upon 
their broad backs. 

The most interestino- bird which revealed itself to us 
in our brookside tangle was a species of wood-hewer. 
At first sight one got an impression of a gigantic Brown 
Creeper, and no wonder, for as far as the literal mean- 
ing of that name is concerned, it was brown and it 
crept up the trunks of trees. As in the case of the 
trogons, motmots, and parrots, this bird was almost 
at the northern limit of the range of its family — the 
DendrocoJaptidce, or wood-hewers. Farther south in 
Central and South America the members of this group 
form no inconsiderable portion of the avifauna, number- 
ing some two hundred and twenty species. Among 
these are birds which are found on the open pamjias 
and which are, of course, terrestrial in their mode of 
life ; others are found on or near the ground in dense 

«4 322 #* 

:::::::::C THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC m::::::::: 

forests ; while an even greater number have the habits 
of our Brown Creepers. The Swainson Wood-hewers 


which we saw were so timid and silent that they were 
difficult birds to find and to watch. 

The Lauo'liino- Falcons had uttered no sound within 
our hearing, until we found them in these tropical 

«4 323 -^ 

:::::::::*f TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO m-:;:::; 

lowlands, but here they made up m full measure for 
this silence ! The call of the loon is weird, the coyote's 
voice most lonesome, but, for pure diabolical utterances, 
commend me to the Laughing Falcon and the Cliacha- 
laca, the acquaintance of both of which birds we made 
early one morning. We were forcing our way through 
a dense swamp, miles back in the jungle. The finest 
ferns I ever saw stretched high above us, their lace- 
work fronds six and eioht feet from the g'round. Huoe 
elephant ears, several feet across, sprouted from the 
black oozing ground, and many odours, spicy and aro- 
matic, filled the air. The delicate growths of filament- 
ous algae beneath the surface of the water looked as 
if nothinor; had disturbed their jifreen thread-like leaves 
for years. 

Few birds were here and no humming of insects 
Avas audible. The steaming air was so heavy with 
pungent earth and swamp smells that one imagined 
that all low sounds w^ere deadened and lost. Here and 
there a dry hummock rose from the swamp, covered with 
short lawn-like grass and great running vines of con- 
volvulus. From one of these a Boat-billed Heron flew 
up, with a croak. Another parody of Nature and this 
time on our Night Heron ! In voice, actions, and flight 
this tropical bird is an exact copy of our large-eyed 
nocturnal heron, but its broad, flat bill is as different 
as is the bill of a gannet from that of a pelican. 

This bird was fearless and perched near by in full 

«4 324 ^ 

:::::::;s5k THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC m-""" 

From the soiled condition of its bill and the 


discolouration of the water I thought that its breakfast 
had consisted of the worms and snails at the bottom, 
rather than of the usual fish diet. We often heard these 


Boatbills flying over the camp at night and uttering 
their discordant squawks. 

«4 325 ^ 



Near the edge of the swamp, we were startled by 
a sudden snarl, and a long-tailed, dark, furry creature 

dashed off through 
the bushes, spring- 
ing silently over the 
soft mould. We had 
no idea as to what it 
was, but we found 
its tracks to be small 
and cat-like. Search- 
ing the place from 
which it sprang, we 
came across a scat- 
tered mass of bones 
and dried skin, which the vultures had evidently picked 
clean. The skull of the creature was in almost perfect 
condition, and we preserved it for identification. It 
proved to be that of a Yaguarondi, a Mexican cat which 
we had never expected to find in this jjart of the 
country. There was very little doubt that the animal 
which fled at our approach was also of this species, and 
a few minutes later another, clearer view proved that 
our surmise was correct. 

What could have been its errand near the bones 
of its dead comrade ? Piles of scattered feathers here 
and there in our path showed where unfortunate 
Boat-bills had fallen victims to Yaguarondis, or to 
other beasts. 

..«4. 326 !»■ 



We reached dry ground at last and seated ourselves 
on a fallen log-. For a moment the silence was unbroken. 
Then a fearful voice arose, apparently coming- from all 
directions at once. Cacklings, screechings, wheedlings, 
peals of uncanny laughter ! The screams of macaws 
dwindled to mere whispers beside this awful din. It 
gave us the greatest shock which we experienced on 
our trip. One prominent factor in the medley was a 
most peculiar subdued humming which, beginning low, 
gained steadily in volume, until it ended in a shrill 
falsetto shriek. A more terrifying sound can hardly 

«4 327 #* 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD -LOVERS IN MEXICO B-"-" 

The authors of all this uproar soon made their ap- 
pearance, a small flock of dark, fowl-like birds, which 
we recognized as Chachalacas. They flew from tree to 
tree, or ran frantically round and round in circles upon 
the o-round, utterin"' screams and the strano'e hum- 
ming- cries, but no sound bearing a resemblance to the 
clear, rino-ino- cha'-cha-lac I with wdiicli w^e were famil- 
iar in captive birds. The other performers in this 
strange chorus were perched high in the trees, a quar- 
tet of Laughing Falcons, wdiicli easily held their own. 
Such awful shrieks of mirth w^ere never fashioned by 
human throats, and the w eirdness of it all, breaking so 
unexpectedly upon the silence of the jungle, made it 
all the more startling. 

Before we reached camp we w^ere able to add the 
Collared Peccary to our list. Three of these wild 
pigs snorted in alarm, as we approached a glade, where 
the underbrush thinned out. They peered at us 
wdth their queer little eyes, and, with frantic grunts, 
they tore off as fast as their short legs could carry 

We heard rumours of large blackish Osos (the native 
word for bear) in the low mountains to the north of 
us, in Jalisco, and I obtained the tooth of a bear 
from a native hunter. Another Indian had the tiny 
horns of a deer, shot in the state of Michoacan, a little 
distance to the south. The deer was described as very 
small, and always as having unbranched horns. I could 

-c^ 3(28 -^ 

:::::::::*C THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC ;*::::::::: 

not persuade the man to give them up, but a close 
examination showed them to be those of the Brocket, 

«*?*»V/* ' 


— probably the Black-faced species. The hunters said 
that these deer lived in the densest jungles and that 
they were very fleet runners. I could secure no more 
facts concerning this little creature — the smallest of 
the Mexican deer. 

«4 329 #» 

:::::::;:C T^YO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-'""" 

The hunters hereabouts were familiar with the 
jaguar {tigre), and a smaller spotted tiger eat, or 
ocelot, which they call hidndurl. When I described 
the Yaguarondi, they exclaimed leoncillo. They speak 
of the Peccary as la havelina. 

I was very anxious to see curassows and guans which 
were said to be found in the jungles not far from our 
camp, and when I described, as best I could, these birds 
to a Mexican, he exclaimed that there were a number 
of tame ones at a neio-hborino- hacienda. We rode 
there one morning, six or seven miles through thick 
forest and marsh, I lugging my largest camera, only 
to find, instead of the anticipated guans, a bevy of 
gobbling domestic turkeys. The disappointment and 
chagrin of my Mexican guide, when he saw that they 
were not what I had expected, made it impossible to 
be out of temper with him. 

One day while walking quietly through a dense part 
of the jungle, where tall, thick-leaved trees shut out 
the lioht and hence caused an absence of thick under- 
growth, I saw a bird fly from a perch, catch an insect 
in mid-air and dart back. I had not found any fly- 
catchers heretofore in this thickly wooded section, and, 
though my heart sank when I saw its back and wings 
of the usual indefinite flycatcher-hues of light gray, 
and knew that exact identification without a gun would 
be next to impossible, I approached the bird. It again 
flew into the air and aoain returned to its favourite 

«4 330 -^ 

:::::::.:=»x THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC ;*::::::::: 

twig, this time facing me, when one glance removed 
all doubt as to its identity ; for its breast was stained 
a rich pink, Avhich burned out brightly amid the dark 
shadows. It was the Xantus Becard, the second mem- 
ber of the family Cot big Idee we had met. From time 
to time it uttered a low, indefinable lisp, and soon flew 
away. Three other individuals were seen after that, 
all solitary, all flycatching, all in such deep woods as 
our Wood Pewee would love. 

With all these interesting birds about our camp, how 
I longed to spend weeks of exploration among these 
jungles and marshes, where, later in the season, the 
birds would all be in song, building their nests, or 
feeding their young ! 

Early in the morning of the day that we planned to 
spend at Manzanillo, we learned that the train passed 
much earlier than we had expected. So, without break- 
fast, we mounted two half-broken horses and rode at 
a breakneck gallop, mile after mile, through the jungle 
trail, dodging boughs, spurring the animals out of 
morasses, and at last found ourselves seated in the nar- 
row, dusty car. 

Soon the green woods and bushy meadows gave 
place to the rainless death — a desolate country of 
parched grass, leafless trees, with dust, dust, every- 
where. If anything could exceed the dust, it was the 
heat. Before we reached Manzanillo we passed along 
the great lagoon which has made Manzanillo one of the 

«4 331 ^ 

i::::::::C TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B-""-:: 

most unhealthy cities in the world. Not a ripple stirred 
the expanse of green slime which stretched away and 
away. Here was stationed a motionless Great Blue 
Heron or a Wood Ibis, there a Cormorant perched 
upon a dead snag. It must indeed be terrible to the 
poor people, who are forced to live at Manzanillo, to 
watch the annual cutting off of the outlet of this 
great ocean-fed lake, to see it become more green and 
slimy day by day. Finally the myriads of fish strug- 
gle and leap ashore in windrows, fighting for oxygen, 
and then the terrible stench carries death on every 
breeze. We passed the great cut through the hills 
to the sea, which, it is hoped, will put an end to this 

A few minutes after passing the sinister expanse of 
the lagoon we reached the harbour of Manzanillo, 
and there lay the Pacific — so deep and blue and pure. 

" Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken ; 

Oi' like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes 
He stared at the Pacific, and all his men 

Looked at each othei- with a wild surmise, 
Silent ujjon a peak in Darien." 

We had but two hours before the train made its 
return trip — only long enough to walk to the beach, 
over the intervening hill, eat our lunch beside its 
booming waves, and return. On the way we were in- 
terested to see large cotton-trees, the new source of 

«4 332 ^ 

:::::::::1: THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC ;*""'■"" 

this material and one which is not subject to the attacks 
of the boll-weevil. There is said to be a great com- 
mercial future for this plant. It was a strange sight 
to see a strong tree, thirty or forty feet high, with the 
branches and twigs all tipped with overflowing bolls 
of soft white cotton. 

Few harbours are more beautiful than this har- 
bour of Manzanillo ; a great curving bow of blue 
water, surrounded with low hills, with the tiny red- 
tiled adobe houses nestled close to the shore at one 

We chanced upon a little beach of whitest sand shut 
in by cliffs, tunnelled and turreted by the centuries 
of storms. Here the Red-footed Boobies fished, diving 
magnificently just beyond the surf. California Brown 
Pelicans watched us from tiny wave-carved islets, off- 
shore. The foam tossed delicate lavender shells and 
jelly-fish discs at our feet, and the cool sea-breeze blew 
away all remembrance of the heat and dust between 
us and our camp home. 

Gradually, day by day, so slowly as to be almost 
imperceptible, a change came over the country. At 
first we did not speak of it, so evanescent it seemed. 
But its influence grew — it became a zeit-geisf, in- 
tangible but all-pervading, infused through the air, 
stirring plant, animal, and man. 

Earthquakes were of nightly occurrence now, and 

«4 335 #* 


often our cots swayed and creaked with the strange 
motion, and our canvas roof undulated, when not a 
breath of air was stirring. 

The days were growing longer and more spring-like. 
No rain liad fallen for many months, yet a freshness 
was spreading over everything. One night, a mighty 
chorus of frogs arose, a rhythmical bellowing, which 
reverberated throuo-h our little g^lade. The undertone 
of nocturnal chirping and fiddling small folk increased 
in volume. The twittering-s of mioratino- birds came 
to ns in our tents. Flowers became more abundant, 
quickened by some unknown source of moisture. The 
occasional combats between the little furred creatures 
which haunted our camp became nioie fierce and de- 

One day about four o'clock in the afternoon, a tiny 
cloud obscured the sun for a moment, something very 
unusual at this time of year. The following days, at 
the same hour, larger and still larger clouds passed 
across its face. We knew at last what it all meant 
— the rainy season was rapidly approaching, and all 
Nature was awakening to welcome it. The dusty 
country, except close to the stream-bed, ached for 
moisture. This was the spring of the tropics — a 
change not so much from cold to heat, as from dust 
to life. The most parched, heat-cracked places now 
showed a little oreen. Lioht thunder was heard now 
and then, and one day, without warning, great drops 

- «4 336 ^ 

:::;:::::*; THE HOT lands OF the pacific m::::::::: 

of rain fell heavily — the first we had experienced on 
our trip. 

Flycatchers and other birds were carrying nesting- 
materials, and renewed activity animated every creature; 
insects were emerging from chrysalids and eggs on 
every hand ; but our time was up. Like the passing- 
migrants, but with the greatest reluctance, we must 
begin our homeward journey. 

Well is the nestino'-season of the birds in these 
lowlands protected from man's disturbing hand. The 
volcano had stirred in its half sleep, the daily drench- 
ing rains had begun, and a black and silent death had 
passed us in the night — small-pox had broken out 
among the Indians near by. If we delayed longer we 
might be quarantined against the railroad, so we dared 
not wait. 

As we packed our tents and baggage, a circle of 
squatting Mexicans and Indians formed around us, 
and when at last all our belongings were on mule- 
back there was an eager rush for the odds and ends 
we had thrown away. Everything must be solemnly 
wrangled over and fairly divided. One secured my 
old butterfly-net, another a cast-off ruby lantern, and 
another a bottle half full of formalin. We tried 
to impress upon him that if he drank the innocent- 
looking liquid his head would soon resemble the 
skull on the label. But he evidently thought he was 
being cheated out of a good drink, so to remove 

«^. 337 ^ 

:::::::::m TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B""'-" 

all temptation, I poured it out on the ground. Every 
bit of i3aj)er, cotton, and string was treasured, while 
pins and candle-ends were treasures to be eloquently 
argued over. 

As we rode slowly to the station, the birds seemed to 
gather in greater numbers than I had seen them at 
any time before, and the air was filled with the calls 
of quail, and the cries of parrots and yellow fly- 

The kindness of our Mexican friend and his family 
sinks deep into our hearts. Hospitality and kindness 
suffer nothing because dealt out from beneath a som- 

Wherever we have made camp, there was always 
some one, a half-grown boy generally, who, seizing the 
opportunity of our visit, came from the nearest village 
and made himself so useful to us that we were glad to 
teach him a little English and help his eager and 
ambitious spirit to some knowledge of the outside 

At this last place, Maria Dolores, a daughter of our 
Mexican host, was the brightest and most intelligent 
of this class of Mexicans whom we had met. It was 
remarkable how readily she learned English words and 
phrases. She became very fond of Sefiorita, and at 
parting, pressed upon her her choicest gift, some dulces 
made of the organ cactus. Her sorrowful Adios ! 

" «4 338 #* 

:::::::::*? THE HOT LANDS OF THE PACIFIC m:;::::::: 

aroused our pity. We wished that we could help her 
to see the outside world for which she longed, and 
which, like most Mexican women, she was probably 
destined never to see. 




EFORE starting on the long trail back 

to Tuxpan, we spent an evening in the 

city of Colima. This, owing to its isolated 

position, is one of the most typical of 

Mexican cities. 

The evening was a perfect one and the band in the 
Ijlaza was excellent. The orange-trees were in blossom, 
and the little park was full-flowered. The governor's 
palace, at one side of the lAaza, is Moorish in design, 
and when the great yellow moon rose behind the 
graceful building, its minarets and turrets were thrown 
into sharp, black relief. 

In the bare light of day, the filth, rags, and squalor, 
the low brows and bleared eyes, the tumble-down, 
flimsy houses cannot be hid from view. But night and 
the soft tropical moonlight changed all. It was impos- 
sible to recall the unpleasantness. The rough-walled 
houses were softened in outline ; the tumble-down 
became the picturesque. The slouchy step of the 
people was now befitting, as they strolled slowly about 
the thronged iilaza, for it w^as Sunday and a gala 

o^ 340 #* 

:::::::;:*f THE VOLCANO BY MOONLIGHT B:""-." 

The torches flare and flame, the frijole fires sparkle, 
and the venders of duJces, and many curious nuts and 
fruits peddled by scores of women, add a foreign 


touch to it all. Sombreros and serapes reflect soft 
hues, and the swarthy faces and dark eyes of the 
Mexicans look curiously out at us as Ave pass. Once or 
twice we meet a brown-skinned American prospector 
or miner, distinguished by a battered felt hat and an 
open revolver holster. He greets us, as only an Amer- 
ican can who is isolated in such a distant corner of 
the world. 

<^. 341 ^ 

:::::::::*? TWO bird-lovers in Mexico B^"--- 

Every native is an innate lover of music. The 
Spanish melodies of the skilful musicians touch one of 
the deepest chords in the hearts of the Mexicans, and 
arouse in the usually stolid faces an enjoyment and 
appreciation which makes them seem a different race 
of people. 

A sudden realization of the two-sided Mexican char- 
acter comes to us. No matter how one's patience has 
been tried by diurnal barteriugs and mananas, or one's 
sense offended by unpleasant visions, one is glad to 
have the chance to mingle with the Mexicans in the 
evening, and to revel in their music. 

This is the ideal side of their life. If the feeling 
and inspiration of the evening could be spread out to 
cover their whole existence, the average low type of 
Mexican would soon rise to higher things ; other and 
better desires would fill his heart than cock-pits and 
bull-fights, gambling, and the terrible tequila. What 
else can bring about such a change, who can tell ! 
Quien sdbe ! 

Next morning, when the stars began to dim in the 
east, we w^ere up and ready to start on the trail. A new 
side of the Mexican character was revealed before we 
mounted. Our Mexican boy had had a bundle of cloth- 
ing stolen and a straw sombrero, and, curiously enough, 
the thief replaced the latter with a more valuable 

Thus far we had not suffered from the proverbial 

«4 342 ^ 

:::::::::*; THE VOLCANO BY MOONLIGHT B:;::::::: 

thievlshness of the Mexicans, except that once in camp 
a can-opener disappeared. This was at the time seri- 
ous enough, for we found that a hatchet or stone, 
instead of opening a tin can, merely changed its shape 
from a cyhnder to a flat disc, then to a rectangle and 
to other geometrical figures, the contents being as 
inaccessible as ever ! 

In former days, conditions were much worse, and 
bandits more numerous than now. A traveller in Mex- 
ico writes that, not so many years ago, the stage-coach 
running between Guadalajara and Zapotlan used to 
be held up regularly, sometimes at several places on 
one trip. 

" The highwaymen who came last would take from 
the passengers even their underwear, though with 
inborn chivalry they allowed the ladies to keep their 
crinolines. The unfortunate travellers would arrive 
at Zapotlan gowned in newspapers and the curtains 
of the coach. Whenever the curtains were seen not to 
be in their proper places it was at once understood in 
the town what had hapjjened. On one occasion the 
soldiers guarding the road succeeded in catching the 
captain of a gang of brigands. They placed their 
prisoner on a donkey and took him to the nearest vil- 
lage to deliver him to the magistrate. But when they 
inquired for the judge, the people replied, ' There 
you have him on the donkey ! ' " 

The present administration has brought the Republic 

«4" •^^•5 ^ 


much nearer the standards of civilization in this, as 
in many other respects. 

Our guide left the animals unguarded for a moment, 
and when we came out of the hotel, a new bridle had 
disappeared. The man shrugged his shoulders, accept- 
ing the theft as a matter of course, and proceeded to 
fashion another of rope. Shortly afterward, while I was 
watching the pack-train, the unbridled horse took 
fright and dashed off down the street. I stood helpless 
for a moment, then I leaped into the nearest saddle, to 
start in pursuit. But during the instant that I was 
undecided, another was acting. A venerable Mexican, 
wrapped to the eyes in his dirty sercqye, was passing. 
The instant that the horse started, the old man threw 
off his blanket, reached for the lariat hanging at 
a pommel, swung it swiftly about his head, and flung 
the whole lasso after the horse, now some distance 
away. It took all his strength, and the effort was so 
great that he fell to his knees, but the tangle of rope 
flew true. Like something alive, it whirled through 
the air, twisting and writhing. Then the long loose 
end trailed out behind and the noose settled, with 
exquisite nicety, over the head of the fleeing horse. 
The animal stumbled on the dragging end, felt the pull 
on his neck, and stopped instantly. Paying no attention 
to my expressions of admiration and thanks, the aged 
Mexican picked up his blanket, muffled himself in it, 
and went on his way. 

<4 346 ^ 

:::::::::=>E THE VOLCANO BY MOONLIGHT ;*::::::::: 

Never had I seen a more remarkable feat, accom- 
plished so instantaneously and with such perfect judg- 
ment : by a man, too, whose age would have seemed 
to preclude all activity. 


At this early hour the streets w^ere almost deserted. 
Venders of w^ater, with their burros, each laden with 
a quartet of oUas, clattered past. Our ride at sunrise 

«4 347 ^ 

:::::::::C TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B::::::::: 

out of the city, and along the first few miles of the 
trail, was as perfect as a glorious spring day in the 
tropics could make it. Flowers and fruit were every- 
where, the Avoods and fields were fresh and green, and 
so clear was the air that the gray slopes of the 
volcano seemed but a mile or two away. 

The Black-and-white-headed Colima Ground Spar- 


rows were in flocks all along the roadside. At first 
glance, they brought to mind our White-crowned Spar- 
rows of the North. They have an even-toned, con- 
tinuous, and jumbled-up ditty, which, when uttered 

-0^ 348 > 

:::::::::^; THE VOLCANO BY moonlight B:."::::." 

in chorus, is very pleasing. Black-headed Grosbeaks 
were also here in numbers, and Meadowlarks sang 
from the meadows, in tones far sweeter than those 
of our Northern bird. Once a Nonpareil Bunting flew 
swiftly past, — in full gaudy dress of blue, green, and 

Later in the morning, a film of cloud tempered the 
heat of the sun, and our little cavalcade clattered merrily 
over the cobbles. Yes, real cobbles, but not the 
rounded, closely laid affairs of our city streets. This 
was an old Spanish road, and one may read, in the 
relics of its elaborate construction, much of the am- 
bitions and failures of the masters of the past. It 
started out a wide, well-defined roadway, paved with 
regular-shaped stones, a diagonal pattern of larger 
cobbles woven through the whole. But the work 
became less and less carefully done as we proceeded, 
until finally the skeleton pattern alone marked the path 
for mile after mile. The trail, however, even as far as 
Tonila, was for the most part well built and levelled, 
and some of the bridges were of remarkably firm con- 
struction. For many scores of years they have with- 
stood the floods of the rainy seasons. We were told — 
and indeed we saw proofs of it — that when, for any 
reason, it was necessary to destroy tliis centuries-old 
masonry with dynamite, the cement held firm while 
the stones gave way. There is a saying that the mortar 
used was prepared a year in advance. 

«4 .340 ■>* 

:::::::::C TWO bird-lovers in Mexico B*"""- 

Each step took us higher, nearer the volcano. The 
singing sparrows gave place to Western Blue Gros- 
beaks and Varied Buntings, the male birds reflecting 
tints of blue and purple, their mates feathered in dull 
leaf-brown. The latter species occasionally uttered a 
rather sweet but simple song. 

In some places the trail was level and straight for 
miles, and on the bordering stone walls great Iguanas 
sunned themselves, or crawled lazily up among the 
bushes. We could look ahead and count fifty or more 
of these black saurians at once. Their curiosity held 
them still for a moment, even after we came abreast 
of them, and I amused myself trying to photograph 
them with a kodak. I would set the shutter and fix 
the focus for about eight feet, and then trot past 
on the opposite side of the trail. Turning suddenly, 
I would spur the horse, with one or two great leaps, 
straight up to the lizard, point the camera at him, and, 
if I was lucky, take a picture. If I was a fraction of 
a second too slow in getting my balance, my film 
would record only the mane of my horse, a bit of 
cloud, or a pile of stones. One soon gets, instinctively, 
the knack of levelling a camera, just as, after long 
practice, a man learns to shoot a revolver accurately 
from his hip. 

Just as the heat began to grow oppressive, we 
reached Tonila, and engaged a room, intending to 
finish our journey next day. But after resting a few 

«4 350 ^ 



hours we felt so refreshed that we decided to o^o on. 
No woman had ever covered this trail of sixty miles, 
from railroad to railroad, from coast-level to table- 
land, in one day, and Senorita, with her indomitable 
spirit, had a keen desire to be the first to accomplish 
this feat. It must be remembered that sixty miles in 
this country means far more than the same number 
over level, even paths. 

Toward sunset we set out slowly, for by far the 
hardest part of the trip Avas before us. The gradually 
ascending slopes were past, and we plunged down into 
the first of the many harrancas. While leading our 

«4 351 ^ •• 


animals down a steep, rock-strewn cliff, a little com- 
pany of mourners passed us in the twilight. At the 
head of the company two men were carrying a tiny 
coffin, slung between them, on a pole. We stopped 
one of the followers and questioned him. He told us 
that a little brother and sister were ramblino- alonsr the 
depths of the barranca, when an ammo — a spirit 
of the dead — appeared suddenly to them. The little 
fellow dropped dead from fear, and his sister had 
gone insane, raving ever of the terrible apparition. 
Such was the pitiful story, reflecting the weight of 
superstition which clouds the minds of these simjole 

The wonder of the closing hours of this day will 
ever remain a vivid picture to SeTiorUa and to me. 
Even our stolid mozo, distracted by the vagaries of 
two obstinate pack-mules, was strongly affected by the 
scene. An unusually large quantity of white smoke 
is pouring from the fire volcano, a few miles away. 
After forming the usual flat, table-like mass above the 
crater, this smoke drifts westward, and fills that whole 
quarter of the heavens with soft, dense folds of palest 
blue. The sun has been hidden for some time by these 
clouds. Indeed, we have thought it already sunk be- 
neath the horizon, when, unexpectedly, yet with the 
deliberation of a planet's motion, it emerges, shines 
for a moment with a full blaze of yellow light, then 
mellows again into obscurity. 

<i 352 #* 

::::::::»x THE VOLCANO BY MOONLIGHT ;*::::::::: 

What follows seems a direct result of the moment- 
ary outpouring- of glory. As if the sun's rays had ig- 
nited the pale clouds above the living crater, they take 
to themselves a soft rose hue. This o-rows and i»Tows, 


more warm, more brilliant, until the height of colour 
is reached. The sky and bank of clouds beyond the 
mountain are of the darkest blue, while the sharply de- 
fined column of white steam ascending from the crater 
is stained a fiery red on the side toward the sunset. 
From this point the red is spread out in an ever-widen- 
ing path, its brilliancy softened until, in mellow tints 
of roseate haze, it warms the whole western sky. Earth- 
flame and sun-glory — the one the daughter of the other 

<4- 3.58 A* 

:::::::::*• TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-"-"" 

— seem once more united. The fearfully red glow at 
the crater's edge is, to the eye, translated, until it 
seems to feed and flow and merge into the splendour 
of the setting sun. 

Never shall we forget our parting night with the 
volcano. During the next two hours of our ride, 
while the fading light of the afterglow is replaced by 
the fitful, flickering light of the living volcano and 
the thin star-gleams from Orion and Leo overhead, the 
gradual changes are no less impressive. 

The red becomes rose ; the rose salmon ; then only 
an evanescent yellow tinge remains. Finally, the 
sunset gone, the great mountain draws a cloak of 
steaming mist about its jagged shoulders, and, with 
a low, hollow rumbling, settles into the quiet of night, 
reflecting indistinctly the hue of dead lava, which 
it assumes when the world is dark. The clothinof 
of pines about the lower slope seems to hug more 
tightly to their scanty-earthed root-hold. At one 
side a fresh, seared line shows where a small crater 
has recently opened and consumed the upper line 
of trees, — the trunks and roots melting to nothing 
before the terrible out|)ouring. Actual molten lava 
seldom escapes from the lofty crater, hot ashes and 
stones being the most common form of eruptive ma- 

The mood of the mountain soon chano^es, the cfround 
quivers beneath our horses' hoofs, the trees rustle their 

-4 354 #* 

L ^ ; '^ i,, V' "' 

:::::::::C THE VOLCANO BY MOONLIGHT ;*::::::::; 

leaves while there is yet no wind, a rumble comes to 
our ears, deeper than the roar of the sea, more solemn 
than the reverberating groan of thunder. Then the 
fumes about the mountain lift and drift apart, and 
there, clear and distinct against the black of the sky, 
we see the play and quiver of the fitful flames. A stoic 
indeed must he be, who is not deeply moved by such 
a sight ; the ancient peak, so cold, so dead, and yet at 
centre so vibrant with the everlasting- fires of earth. 
It is the most awe-inspiring — the most beautiful sight 
in the world. 

We advanced at a snail's pace in the darkness, 
letting the sure-footed pack-animals lead the way. At 
the very brink of the great Barranca Vueltran is a 
crumbling wayside corral, where pack-trains, laden 
with sugar and cocoanuts, stop for the night. This 
wayside house goes by the odd name of Conejo — 
the rabbit. Here we unsaddled and waited for the 
moon to rise, before descending into the dark gorge. 

After some chocoldtl and frijoles, we sat on a pile of 
saddles and listened to our guide, as he sang Spanish 
love-songs to the daughters of the host. It was truly 
a Mexican scene. At one side a blaze of light comes 
from the open door of a smoky little room, where a 
party of muleteers are gambling — shuffling and deal- 
ing the curious cards of the country, with gold balls, 
platters, wooden clubs and crowns, instead of the usual 
hearts and diamonds. Our guide, leaning against one 

«4 357 ^ 

::::::::»s TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO B-""-" 

of the innumerable hitcliing-posts, sings to the ac- 
companiment of a guitar, in a clear tenor voice, 
Paloma, and that most beautiful of all Mexican 
songs — La Perjura. An old, old shrivelled Mexican 
is squatting in a corner and mumbling to himself. 
When we speak to him, he answers in the quaintest of 
old Spanish proverbs, but will not talk of himself or 
of his life. The moonrise was still an hour away, and 
we watched the volcano burn on and thought of the 
last great eruption, Avlien a sheet of flame shot high in 
air, and huge stones were thrown out, flaming in great 


circles of fire, while sand and pebbles rained down 
upon all the country hereabouts. 

At last the lop-sided moon drifted above the oppo- 
site waU of the barranca, and we said Adios ! and 

«4 358 ^ 

::::::::aE the volcano by moonlight ae:::::::: 

remounted. On our strong horses, Senorita and I soon 
distanced the plodding' pack-mules and found ourselves 
far ahead. The muleteer was a trusty one, so we de- 
cided not to wait for him, but to go on alone. Up the 
winding trail we climbed, criss-crossing the face of 
rocky cliffs, next a gallop over a level moonlit stretch, 
and then a plunge into another dark, shadowy harrnnca. 
Ten or twelve miles passed, and we were confronted 
with a toll-gate, tightly locked. We learned from a 
sleepy Mexican that the keeper was at Platina, a vil- 
lage some five miles back on the trail, and that he was 
very likely dead-drunk. 

In vain we tried to find a place in the stone wall 
over which we could leap our horses. In vain I offered 
the man a ^jeso, if he would get the key. We knew 
that the Mexican Central train left Tuxpan at half -past 
four in the morning, and the moon was already high 
overhead. The chain was heavy and the lock inde- 
structible, but there was a flaw in one of the cross-bars 
of the gate. Senorita held my horse while I took a run 
and threw my full strength against it, and at last it 
gave way. 

An Indian came doAvn the hill behind us, and al- 
though he knew little Spanish, the situation was plain 
to him. He kicked the sleeping Mexican, who paid 
not the slightest attention, and then he helped me. 
With a few hard rushes we had the gate scattered over 
several yards of hillside. I had little fear of the con- 

«4 359 -^ 


sequences, as the gate-keeper should have been on duty 
all nioht. 

The weirdness of our ride through the long, long 
night fascinates us both. We are wide-awake, every 
sense on the alert. Scattered clouds pass across the 
moon, shadowing the trail and changing the spreading 
yellow-barked trees into dim ghosts. Now and then 
some creature scuttles from our path ; twice the omin- 
ous whirr of a rattlesnake sets our horses a-quiver. 
Deer splash away from the shallow fords, where we 
cross the streams. Bats fan our cheeks, while ever the 
scarlet-capped volcan watches over us. 

We rode a little out of our way to pass our arroyo 
camping-place. Its shrivelled barrier of thorns, and 
the scattered bits of paper, were just as we left them 
a month agfo. A feeling; of sadness came over us as 
we passed, for the last time, the well-known places ; 
the trees and rocks which we knew so well, each fixed 
in our memory by some association. All was silent and 
white in the moonlio-ht. The wildness and desolation 
of this untamed country seemed more j)ronounced 
here, where once our home tent had been pitched. 

Although rain had not yet fallen at these high alti- 
tudes, yet the stream in the Barranca Atenquiqui had 
risen greatly, flooding our first camping-place. This 
was the last deep gorge on the trail, and, as we came 
out upon the high land, we broke into a gallop. Only 
eight miles now separated us from Tuxpan, and the 

«4 360 -^ 

::::;::::*C THE VOLCANO BY MOONLIGHT m::::::::: 

horses shook from their limbs the stiffness of the long 
stretches of walking and climbing, and now raced 
eagerly along. 

We passed a family of Indians on mule-back, prob- 
ably just setting out for Colima, and they told us that 
it was after four o'clock ; a party of soldiers shouted 
to us that it was but two hours past midnight. And so 
we were alternately disheartened and encouraged, until 
we rounded the last curving hill and saw the rear lights 
of the Guadalajara train. It was four o'clock and 
we had made the sixty miles in fourteen hours of con- 
tinuous riding ! 

The conductor congratulated My Lady upon her 
pluck and daring, and held the train for us as long 
as he dared, but still our baggage did not arrive. We 
learned later that the irate drunken keeper of the 
demolished toll-gate delayed our baggage-mules and 
was thus the cause of our missing the train. 

As the train rumbled away, we turned and rode 
slowly to the Hotel Central, just as the east was bright- 
ening with another day. The moon, which had guided 
us so steadily through all the night, paled and sank 
slowly behind the cone of the volcano. 

Days pass, we recross the continent, and our last 
Mexican sunset dies out behind the mighty peak of 
Orizaba. As our steamer leaves the harbour of Vera 
Cruz, the first rocket of the Easter fiesta shoots up- 

«J 361 •> 


ward, curves, hangs suspended for a moment, and then 
bursts into a cloud of coloured stars, and as we pass 
the end of the long breakwater, a solitary Mexican 
sends a final, musical Adlo-os ! to us, across the water. 



Brj Mrs. C. William Beehe 

■HEN we decided to spend the winter camp- 
ing- in the wilds of western Mexico, we 
were ahnost as much at sea as to what to 
take with us as if we were contemplating 
a trip to the planet Mars ! In vain did we read books 
on Mexico. All had much to say of the interesting 
history of the country, of its exports and imports, of 
the courtship of the fair senoritas, of the cruel bull- 
fights, etc., etc. But of the wonderful nature life of 
Mexico — scarcely a word ; and as to advice to any 
one wishing to leave the beaten line of travel, and to 
camp in the wilderness — there was none. 

After infinite deliberation we finally settled upon 
an outfit, which proved to be, in most respects, all- 
sufficient and which was also inexpensive. We did not 
risk buying things in Mexico, for all imported articles 
are very expensive there, and many things cannot be 
2)rocured at all. 

I am sure that any one who has before him (or her) 
the delightful prospect of camping in Mexico will find 

«4 363 ^ 


many helpful suggestions — and some warnings — 
from the way we did it. The warnings, however, I 
will try to make serve the useful purjjose of pointing 
out the w^ay not to go. 

If one wishes to travel with the least possible Avorry 
or trouble, and to enjoy unfailing courtesy and delight- 
ful service, let him go to Mexico via the Ward Line, 
and when once in that country purchase his tickets on 
the lines of the Mexican Central Railroad. 

When one reaches Mexico one exchanges one's Amer- 
ican money for about two and a fourth times its value 
in Mexican coinage, but this sudden increase in numer- 
ical amount should not blind one to certain facts which 
it is well to keep in mind. Careful inquiries should be 
made concerning those States wdiich are bankrupt, or 
whose bank-notes are, for some reason, depreciated in 
value. All such should be refused. 

When striking out into the wilderness, carry few 
bills, or none at all, as the Indians are averse to taking 
them ; though they readily accept small change or 
silver pesos. A little change goes a long way in an 
Indian villagfe. All larg^e amounts should be carried in 
the form of drafts on New York banks, in preference 
to ordinary American currency. 

With us the first consideration was lightness ; partly 
because the Mexican railroads allow only one hundred 
and ten pounds of baggage to each person, wdiich is 
forty pounds less than is permitted in this country — 

4 364 -^ 

::::::::SE HOW WE DID IT afe"":": 

all excess baggage being charged for according- to the 
regular express rates ; and also because, after leaving 
the railroad, everything must be packed on mule-back 
over the steep trails. If one's husband is a natural- 
ist, one necessarily travels with much that is heavy 
— photographic plates, bottles of formaHn, guns, am- 
munition, etc. I always say that our trunks contain 
everything except clothing. 

I will begin with what one must w^ear. A man will 
find that an ideal costume for camping is a soft felt 
hat, a khaki hunting-coat and knickerbockers, canvas 
army leggings, ordinary heavy shoes, never, if he 
values comfort and peace of mind, high hunting- 
boots and long golf stockings. They are both too 
warm for the climate of Mexico, as well as affording 
excellent lodging-places for fleas and other insects. 
A supply of soft blue flannel shirts, such as the West- 
ern cowboys wear, will be always comfortable and 
useful. Sweaters are necessary, for remember that 
this is a winter trij), and, although the days are warm 
and one will then hate the very sight of a sweater, 
yet the nights in camp are cool and sometimes even 

To the woman who is courageous enough to defy 
the expostulations of her friends and to undertake 
a camping-trip to Mexico, let me say that I congratulate 
her on having before her one of the most unique and 
fascinating experiences of her life ; that is, if she goes 

«^ 860 -^ 

::::::::»x TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B:-:'"" 

in the proper spirit. And the proper spirit is to be 
interested in everything and to have one's mind firmly 
made up to ignore small discomforts. My woman 
who goes camping in Mexico will need, beside her 
sliort-skirted travelling suit, — which must be of very 
lio-ht weioht, — several lio-ht shirt-waists. Let me ad- 
vise her not to let her enthusiastic husband or brother 
(as the case may be) hurry on to camp without linger- 
inQ- in several of the interestins- Mexican cities long; 
enough to get a glimpse of the picturesque Mexican 
life. These cities are fascinatingly quaint and foreign, 
with their beautiful churches, their lovely little parks, 
jfU'dlns and plazas, as they are called, and the inter- 
esting markets, so characteristic of Mexico. In every 
city there is to be found a wonderful flower-market, 
where soft-voiced Mexican women sell you gorgeous 
bouquets of roses, great golden narcissus, and fragrant 
gardenias ; and a Thieves' Market, which is a junk- 
shop on a gigantic scale ; stolen and second-hand 
articles of every conceivable description are brought 
here to be sold, and here congregate the most pictur- 
esque and typical of the city's inhabitants. 

For all this sight-seeing one needs a few light sum- 
mer gowns. They cannot be bought ready-made in 
Mexico, and no one has time to parley with a dress- 
maker in this land of mahana. Neither can one swel- 
ter in the warm travelling suit which was a necessity 
on the steamer. " And," as says the immortal Duchess 

«4 366 #» 

::::::::sE HOW WE DID IT ^:::;:::: 

in the " Alice in Wonderland " books, " the moral o£ 
this is," take all these needful things with you, for 
if you attempt to send home for them they may be 
delayed for weeks in the mails, and when they finally 
arrive, the duty on a garment sometimes exceeds its 

These things, however, are for civilization, — not 
for the wilderness, — and before starting out for camp 
they should be left with some responsible person in- 
the city which you make your headquarters. In our 
case this was Guadalajara. 

Everything which we did not expect to use in camp 
was left in a large trunk, while we took with us on 
the trail only a steamer trunk and four waterproof 
clothino'-bao's — two of moderate size and two small. 
These bags save a surprising amount of weight, and 
pack readily on mule-back, as does also a steamer 

When the last farewell to civilization is said, and 
the woman who goes camping sets forth on the trail 
to be a wilderness woman indeed, she will find that a 
very simple wardrobe will be all that is necessary. First 
and most important is a divided skirt of whipcord or 
corduroy. No one should attempt to ride side-saddle 
over these steep mountain trails ; indeed the woman 
who does not intend to ride cross-saddle should never 
undertake a camping- trip in the wilds of Mexico. A 
short skirt of corduroy (khaki is also good) I found 

-4 367 #* 

::::::::3E TWO BIRD-LOVERS IN MEXICO Is:::::::: 

most useful. Several thin shirt-waists, of a colour which 
does not soil easily, are indispensable. I prefer soft 
shades of gray and brown, as they are inconspicuous 
and harmonize with the rocks and trees. Brilliantine 
and alpaca make nice, cool, sensible waists. A pair of 
canvas hunting-leggings, like my husband's, were the 
joy and comfort of my life ; for whatever Mexico may 
lack, it is not thorns! I wore ordinary medium-weight 
high shoes. Anything heavier will sorely try one's 
patience on a long, hot tramp in the harrcmcas. One 
must be sure to take plenty of shoes, as they are 
exorbitantly exjiensive in Mexico. A veil or two (or a 
net) to keep the hair from blowing in your face, when 
riding horseback, will be found of the greatest comfort. 
But I hope my camping woman will not mar her 
pleasure by wearing her veil over her face. A wild 
gallop over the plains on horseback loses much of its 
charm if there is anything between one's face and 
the pure invigorating mountain breezes. And after all, 
a little honest tan is a good thing ! 

But let us proceed to the rest of the outfit. The 
house over one's head is an important thing, so it 
is in order to discuss the matter of a tent. We have 
always found it a good plan to be generous in respect 
to its size — one ten by twelve feet being none too 
large for two persons. The cheapest kind of a tent 
will suffice ; for during the winter season in Mexico, 
every day is like Indian summer — bright and cloud- 

«4 368 •*» 

::::::::a^ HOW WE DID IT m:::::::: 

less. Hence umbrellas, rain-coats, and rubbers will all 
be very much de troj). We did not take tent-poles. A 
stout rope stretched between two trees answers every 
purpose, which reminds me that, like pins and strings, 
rope is a thing of Avhicli one can never have too much 
when camping. 

A brown linen wall-pocket, with ten or twelve par- 
titions, will almost take the place of a well-appointed 
bureau. It can be pinned to the wall of the tent and 
used to hold toilet articles, pins, collars, etc. 

A box of Persian insect powder must not be omitted 
from your list of necessities. It may not be needed in 
camp, but if one has to spend the night in a native 
hut, or in a primitive Mexican hotel, which is sure to 
be the case, a " bug-gun " and insect pow^der will be 
of priceless value in proving an effectual cure for 


And now the question of beds. We used folding- 
cots (costing about two dollars each), and I strongly 
recommend them in preference to sleeping-bags, for 
a climate such as that of Mexico. Nothing is more 
comfortable than these cots, and by day they can be 
used as writing-desk, or sofa, while on the trail they 
are folded to very small compass. For warmth we took 
a soft cotton comforter for each person. On the trip 
down they were used to pack photographic plates 
and bottles. When we left they were bestowed upon 
a grateful Mexican. If one finds blankets necessary (as 

<4- 869 -^ 

:::::::::*; TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B::::::::: 

will probably be the case, except in the tierra caliente, 
or hot lands), they can be purchased very cheaply in 
any Mexican store. 

One must carry a small cooking outfit, and be sure 
that it includes an Abercrombie & Fitch oj^en baker. 
This baker makes life worth living in camp, as it 
insures all kinds of delicious hot breads. A stove is 
always a failure, even though it be warranted to pack 
into a thimble. The cooking outfit will include steel 
knives, aluminum forks and spoons, plates and cups, 
and a small nest of cooking-utensils. A canvas water- 
pail is a valuable addition, and a can-opener is always 
a necessity. One must be prepared to find one's appe- 
tite trebled within the first week. We went about like 
the proverbial " roaring lion," seeking what we might 
devour ; and we were indeed glad that we had laid in 
a good supply of canned and condensed things. Con- 
densed soups are good, — especially bean, pea, and 
rice ; and the addition of boiling water to " Maggi " 
bouillon capsules is all that is necessary to create 
a perfect consomme. But beware of dried vegetables. 

The most delicious chocolate and coffee can be 
found everywhere in the country, but it will be wise 
to take some milk-powder, which is quite acceptable in 
these beverages, for in camp it is sometimes difficult 
to get fresh milk. 

At Guadalajara we provided ourselves with flour, 
baking-powder, canned butter. Cream of Wheat, Ral- 

«4 370 ^ 

::::::::ag: HOW WE DID IT m-""" 

ston, etc. The canned butter is extremely nice, and 
butter is a great luxury in Mexico. The Mexicans 
never eat it, and it is impossible to get, except at the 
American hotels in the large cities. As for meat, it is 
an easy matter to keep the table supplied with birds 
and venison. 

It is the part of prudence to take a small medicine- 
case containing good general remedies, which should 
include absolute ammonia, to be used for scorpion or 
tarantula bites. The ammonia is used both externally 
and internally ; for internal use take a few drops in 
water every half hour until relieved. This will prob- 
ably not be needed, for the danger of scorpion and 
tarantula bites in Mexico is much exaggerated ; how- 
ever it is well to be on the safe side, remembering the 
old adage about the ounce of prevention. 

Several candle lanterns (made by the Abercrombie 
& Fitch Company) and a supply of candles were added 
to our outfit. 

We planned for observation and photography rather 
than collecting ; so my husband took for general use 
only a small-bore (28 gauge) double-barrelled shot-gun 
and plenty of paper shells, which answered every 
requirement, both for providing the table with meat 
and for securing birds and other specimens for identi- 
fication. We took a long-focus, four-by-five Premo 
camera and a kodak of the same size, and twenty-four 
dozen plates and films ; besides ruby lantern and a 

«4 371 ^ 

;::::::;:m TWO BIRD- LOVERS IN MEXICO B""-": 

developing outfit, which, although heavy and bulky, 
gave results amply rejDaying all trouble. A trunk made 
a good developing-table ; after the sun sank, the whole 
canyon became a dark-room ; while our washing-tray 
was a cavity between two water-worn boulders, through 
which rushed the cold stream straight from the melting 
snows on the volcano. 

To the camping woman should always be given this 
warning : See to it that the party is provided with a 
cook, that nothing may be expected of her in the way 
of cooking and dish-washing. Let her supervise the 
cooking — the menu will be vastly improved ; and if she 
is gracious to the cook she may succeed in banishing 
the national garlic and chUl. But have it distinctly 
understood that she is camping iov jjleasure, and that 
she does not expect to come home at night, tired after 
a long day's ride or tramp, with the prospect before her 
of wrestling with a smoky camp-fire and of washing 
dishes by the flickering light of a candle. 

I hope every party may be as fortunate in its cook 
as w^e were in ours. He was cook, dish-washer, guide, 
and when occasion demanded more fluent Spanish than 
was at our command, he was interpreter. The pleasure 
of a trip to Mexico will be many times increased by 
a knowledge of the Spanish language, even as slight 
as that gained from Cortina's admirable little book 
" Spanish in Twenty Lessons ; " indeed if you leave 
the beaten lines of travel and camp in the country, 

«4 372 ^ 

::::::::^ HOW WE DID IT M^:^ 

this is an absolute necessity, unless you have an inter- 

Both my husband and I had revolvers, and wore 
them. All the Mexicans in the wilder parts of the 
country wear revolvers, and it is but the part of safety 
to do likewise. The Mexicans are much surprised at 
seeing: a Senorita ride cross-saddle and wear a re- 
volver ; so the camping woman must accustom herself 
to creating a sensation among* these simple folk. 

I shall never forget the impression I made in the 
little city of Colima. After riding many miles on the 
trail, we halted before the Chbio Hotel, and very dusty 
and tired we were. Jumping off my horse, wearing of 
course my divided skirt and my revolver, I entered the 
patio of the hotel. A forlorn little Frenchman and his 
wife were dining in the patio, as were many Mexicans, 
and their astonishment at my appearance was ludicrous. 
A Mexican woman will often take a pipe from her 
mouth to express shock and surprise at a Senorita 
riding cross-saddle ! 

It was long before I could accustom myself not to 
start with surprise when I was invited to smoke. Even 
the clerks in the hotels will offer a woman a box of 
cigarettes as soon as she arrives, asking very politely 
" Desea Vd. fimiar ? " — Do you wish to smoke ? This 
courtesy is to the Mexican as natural as for an Ameri- 
can gentleman to offer a woman his chair. 

There is much to amuse those of us who are blessed 

<4; 373 ^ 


■with a sense of humour, and much to charm and in- 
terest every one in this strange hmd, which is yet so 
near a neighbour of ours. 

As to horseback, my theory is that all one has to do 
is to get on and ride. I have little patience with spend- 
ing months learning to ride. I had never ridden before, 
but I simply got on and rode off. Of course for the 
first few times one cannot ride long distances, but that 
soon comes with a little practice. The rule for a good 
dancer applies equally to a good rider — do not be 
rigid, let yourself go. In the case of riding let youi-- 
self go with your horse, and above all, do not be afraid. 
Pluck and a philosophic spirit will soon make a good 
rider, and a good camper, and a very happy person 

We did not burden ourselves with carrying our own 
saddles. We found the Mexican saddles comfortable, 
provided you see to it that you get one the stirrups 
of which can be lengthened or shortened at Avill. We 
hired our animals and when we had made camp, sent 
them home with the guide, with orders to return every 
few days with our mail and with oranges, lemons, and 
other supplies. 

Thouofh I were to write a volume I could not ade- 
quately picture the great charm of our wild free life in 
camp ! One lives so near the heart of Nature, and in 
this simple natural life learns many a great truth. The 
pure joy of life itself is ever present. Every possible 

-04 374 ^ 

::::::::ae; HOW WE DID IT jae:::;:::: 

trouble or perplexity seems a thing of the past — 
almost left in another world. What matters anything 
in this great wild country — the day nor the hour nor 
the year are of any account. What a glorious thing is 
a cold plunge in early morning in the swift-flowing 
river near the tent, where the night before the deer 
drank, and along which all the furtive wild creatures of 
the night stealthily made their way in the moonlight. 
Here one feels how good a thing it is to be alive, to 
be hungry and to eat, to be weary and to sleep. 




'HE following list, omitting the birds which we 
observed in Cuba, includes all the more com- 
mon species which would be observed by any one 
making such a trip to Mexico. I have followed 
the classification of the American Ornithologists' 
Union Check-List. 

The delicate variations which at present are being recognized in 
the delineation of species and especially of subspecies of birds, 
although necessary in their function of aiding our knowledge of 
distribution and the effects of environment, yet render the exact 
identification of living birds an impossibility in some instances. But 
the residential and non-migratory habits of many Mexican species 
and their unusual fearlessness are very great helps to one who 
for the first time undertakes to observe the birds of this country. 
Whenever I have given brief descriptions, I have endeavored to use 
the characteristics which are instantly apparent in a quick glance 
with a glass or with the unaided eye. Where the description occurs 
in the body of the book, it is not repeated, but the reference is given. 

The majority of these notes were made in the States of Jalisco 
and Colima in west-central Mexico. The dates and localities coin- 
cide approximately as follows : — 

Guadalajax-a, — the first half of January and the first half of 

Chapala and its marshes, — the latter half of March. 

The higher or upper barrancas, near the eastern slope of the 
volcano of Colima, — the latter half of January. 

<i 379 ^ 

:::::::::i: APPENDIX 3^"""" 

The lower barrancas, near the southern slopes of the volcano, — 
the first half of February. 

The hot lowlands west of the volcano, and the coastal region of 
the State of Colinia, — the latter half of February. 

Western Grebe. uEchviophorus occidentalis (Lawr.). pp. 75, 110. 
This master-diver is the largest of our Grebes, and is grayish 
above and silvery-white below. It has a long, pointed bill and 
a neck as long as the entire body. About a dozen were seen on 
Lake Chapala in March. The natives occasionally snare these 
birds (how, 1 could not learn), and offer their beautiful silky 
breasts for sale. 

Least Grebe. Colymbus dominicus brachypterus Chapm. pp. 
119, 123. 

The smallest of North American Grebes. They were not un- 
common on the large ponds of the marshes near Chapala. Their 
short wings and spattering attempts to rise in flight made them 
appear like the inexperienced young of some sjjecies of water 
bii'd. The Mexicans think that they are young ducks which, by 
some " seventh son of a seventh son " sort of magic, are differ- 
ent from their fellows and learned of the devil, being unharm- 
able by their shot or bullets. 

Pied-billed Grebe. Podilyvilms jiodlceps (Linn.), p. 123. 

The common " Dabchick" of our Northern mill-ponds winters 
on Lake Chapala and on many of the other lakes and ponds in 
the vicinity of Guadalajara. 

Loon, or Great Northern Diver. Gavia imber (Gunn.). pp. 2, 

Three of these splendid birds showed themselves to us on the 
waters of Lake Chapala at the time of our visit, all in the dull 
plumage of winter, but with their weird cry as clear and thrill- 
ing as when uttered on the Bay of Fundy through the keen fog 
of early morning. We saw and heard these birds far out on the 
open Atlantic on our trip down. 

«4 380 > 

::::::::ae APPENDIX afe:::;:::: 

Herring Gull. Larus argentatus Brlinn. p. 2. 

Common in the harbour of Vera Cruz, and on the open ocean. 
Ring-billed Gull. Larus delawarensis Orel. p. 2. 

Frequently seen on the ocean. 
Bonaparte Gull. Larus ph'iladdiihia (Ord). 

Numerous on Lake Chapala in March, in company with other, 
unidentified gulls. 
Black Petrel. Oceanodroma tnelania (Bonap.). 

The small blackish petrels which we saw off shore at Manza- 
nillo were doubtless of this species. 
Wilson Petrel. Oceanites oceanicus (Kuhl). pp. 2, 19. 

On Christmas Day several storm-blown individuals were seek- 
ing shelter behind low weeds on the beach, north of the city of 
Vera Cruz. They were frequently seen from the steamer on the 
open Atlantic. 
Red-footed Booby. Sula nebouxii Milne-Edwards, p. 335. 

Many of these Boobies were fishing near shore in Manzanillo 
harbour, during our visit. They were very fearless and came 
close overhead, occasionally, as they flew, rubbing one of their 
red feet against the other. 
Booby. Sula sula (Linn.), p. 12. 

Numbers were seen between Progreso and Vera Cruz, near 
the Arcos Islands. 
Gannet. Sida hassana (Linn.), p. 2. 

Gannets were occasionally seen from the steamer's deck all 
the way from Cape Hatteras to Vera Cruz. 
Snake-bird, or Darter. Anhinga anhinga (Linn.). 

One or two were seen on the marshes of Chapala. A Mexi- 
can told us that these birds had become much rarer than they 
formerly were. 
Mexican Cormorant. Phalacrocorax mexicaims (Brandt), pp. 
18, 123, 190, 217. 

Abundant on Lake Chapala and on all the rivers and streams 
dow^n to the lowlands of Colima. Their food in the barran- 

4 381 ^ 

:::::::::^ appendix ^:::::::: 

cas is partly vegetable, not exclusively fish. When on the wing 
they ai'e not distinguishable from our northern Double-crested 
or from the Florida Cormorants. 
American White Pelican. Pelecanus erythrorhynchos Gmel. 
p. 110. 

A large number were reported as wintering on Lake Chapala, 
but only a few were seen. 
Brown Pelican. Pelecanus occidentalis (Linn.), pp. 4, 18. 

Thi'ee were seen near Vera Cruz on Christmas Day weather- 
ing a norther ; and again three flew over the city at Easter. 
California Brown Pelican. Pelecanus calif ornicus Ridgw. p. 

Several were seen, flying or perching among the islets in the 
Pacific off Manzanillo. The living birds were not distinguish- 
able from the eastern Pelicans. 
Man-o'-AVar Bird. Fregata aquila Linn. pp. 5, 6. 

One was seen flying before a storm at Vera Cruz. 
Mallard. A7ias boschas Linn. pp. 73, 118, 123, 190. 

Very abundant on the marshes of Chapala and on the streams 
and ponds from the tableland to the low Pacific coastal region. 
Gadwall. Chaulelasmus sti'eperus (Linn.), p. 118. 

Abundant on the marshes of Lake Chapala. 
Baldpate, or American Widgeon. Mareca aviericana (Gmel.). 
p. 114. 

Abundant on the Chapala marshes. 
Greex-wixged Teal. Nettion caroUnensis (Gmel.). 
Very abundant on the mai'shes of Lake Chapala. 
Blue-winged Teal. Querquechda discors (Linn.), pp. 73, 119, 

Cinnamon Teal. Querquedula cyanoptera (Vieill.). pp. 74, 119, 

These two species were abundant on the Lake Chapala 
marshes and along the rivers and small streams of the Western 
barrancas to sea-level. The Cinnamon Teal is a Western bird, 

<^ 382 #* 

::::::::^ APPENDIX B::::::::: 

closely allied to our Blue-wing, but with the head, neck, breast, 
and sides bright cinnamon. These two little ducks divide the 
United States between them in the summer, but flock south to- 
gether during cold weather. 
Shoveller Duck. Spatula chjpeata (Linn.), pp. 73, 119, 123. 
Found on the Chapala marshes and small water pools on the 
Pintail Duck. Dafila acuta (Linn.), pp. 73, 114, 119. 

Found in large numbers on Lake Chapala. The migration 
northward had begun in February. 
Caxvas-back Duck. Aythya vallisneria (Wils.). p. 119. 

Four were observed on the Chapala marshes. 
Lesser Scaup Duck. Aythya affinis (Eyt.). pp. 4, 113, 119, 

Common at Chapala and on small ponds on the tableland. 
All that were examined in the hand were ajfi7iis. 
Snow Goose. C7ie?i hyperborea (Pall.), pp. 120, 121. 
White-fronted Goose. Anser albifrons (Gmel.). pp. 119, 120. 
We saw large flocks of these two species of Geese on the 
Chapala marshes. About the middle of March they were start- 
ing northward in great numbers. 
Roseate Spoonbill. Ajaia ajaia (Linn.). 

Two individuals of this beautiful species were seen in the hot 
lowlands of the Pacific coast. 
White Ibis. Guara alba (Linn.), p. 316. 

A flock of eleven birds haunted a stream near our camp in 
the lowlands of Colima. 
White-faced Glossy Ibis. Plegadis guaratma (Linn.), pp. 75, 
81, 82, 119. 123. 

We saw many flocks of fifty or more of these birds on the 
Chapala marshes ; otliers near Guadalajara and on the wayside 
pools from La Barca to Tuxpan. 
Wood Ibis. Tantalus loculator Linn. pp. 5, 332. 

These birds, ugly of mien, but magnificent in flight, were 

<4: 383 ^ 

::::::::SK? APPENDIX m;:uu::: 

abundant in the lowlands of Colima and in the dreaded lagoon 
near Manzanillo. 
Great Blue Heron. Ardea herodias Linn. pp. 78, 86, 118, 123, 

Tliis bird was seen on all lakes, ponds, and streams in Jalisco 
and Colinia ; and occasionally even in the deserts. 
American Egret. Herodias egretta (Gmel.). pp. 78, 79, 110, 123. 
Quite common at Chapala and at Agua Azul near Guadalajara. 
Reddish Egret. Dichromanassn rufescens (Gmel.). p. 118. 

Several were observed near Lake Chapala. 
Louisiana Heron. Hydranassa tricolor ruficollis (Gosse). 

Abundant at Chapala. 
Little Blue Heron. Florida ccvridea (Linn.), pp. 302, 315. 
Several in the white juvenile plumage were seen in the low- 
lands of Colima. 
Little Green Heron. Butorides virescens (Linn.), pp. 78, 123. 
Abundant on all ponds and streams in Jalisco and Colima, 
from tableland to coast. Whether they were of the subspecilic 
form anthonyi, I am unable to state. 
Black-crowned Night Heron. Nycticorax nycticorax nceiu^is 

Two individuals were noted in a barranca near the volcano of 
Colima. One was shot, while I was catering for our larder, by 
a stray pellet from a charge fired at a flock of doves. 
Boat-billed Heron. Canchroma zeledoni Ridgw. pp. 325. 326. 
Not uncommon in the swamps and along the streams of the 
hot lands of Colima. 
Sandhill Crane. Gr'us mexicana (Miill.). 

Several were seen from the train near Tuxpan. 
Purple Gallinule. lonornis martin ica (Linn.), p. 123. 
American Coot. Fitlica americana Gmel. pp. 73, 74, 113, 118, 

Both these birds were quite common in the vicinity of streams 
and ponds near Guadalajara. 

«4 384 ^ 

::::::::sg: APPENDIX aK:::::::; 

Black-necked Stilt. Himantopus mexicamis (MiilL). pp. 77, 
118, 123. 

Also common on streams and ponds near Guadalajara. 
Wilson Snipe. Gallinago delicata (Ord.). pp. 19, 103. 

Several were seen near Guadalajara and on the beach near 
Vera Cruz. 
Greater Yellow-legs. Totanus melanoleucus (Gmel.) p. 118. 
Yellow-legs. Totanus flavij^es (Gmel.). p. 118. 

Both bii'ds abundant on the ponds and lakes of the tableland. 
Solitary Sandpiper. Helodromas solitarlus (Wils.). pp. 134, 
135, 136. 

Abundant on the tableland and in the barrancas. 
Spotted Sandpiper. Actitls viacularia (Linn.). 

Common on the ponds about Guadalajara. 
Long-billed Curlew. Numenius longlrostris Wils. p. 118. 

Quite common on the marshes about Chapala. 
Killdeer. Oxyechus vociferus (Linn.), pp. 19, 117, 134. 

Common everywhere in the barrancas and in the lowlands of 
Colima. Four were seen on the beach at Vera Cruz. 
Mexican Jacana. Jacana sjjhiosa (Linn.), pp. 79, 80, 123. 

Fairly common on ponds about Guadalajara. 
Grayson Bob- White. Colinus graysoni (Lawr.). p. 252. 

Heard among the pines on the volcano of Colima. 
Scaled Partridge. Callipepla squamata (Vig.). p. 268. 

Common in the lowlands of Colima. 
Wagler Chachalaca. Ortalis wagleri (Gray), pp. 324, 328. 

Several seen in the lowlands of Colima. 
Band-tailed Pigeon. Columba fasciata Say. p. 292. 

Abundant in the lowlands of Colima. 
Mourning Dove. Zenaidura macroxi^ra (Linn.), pp. 104, 185, 218. 

Abundant everywhere. ^ 

TVhite-fronted Dove. Leptot'da fulviventris brachyptera (Sal- 
vadore). pp. 218, 250. 

Abundant in the barrancas. 

<4- 385 > 

::::::::aK APPENDIX ^:::::::: 

White-winged Dove. Melopelia leucoptera (Linn.), pp. 292, 

Very abundant in the hot lands of Colima. 
Mexican Ground Dove. Colutubigalllna passerina pallescens 

(Baird). p. 185. 
Inca Dove. Scwrdafella inca (Less.), pp. 61, 185. 

These last two doves were very common throughout Jalisco 
and Colima. 
Turkey Vulture. Cathartes aura (Linn.), pp. 61, 88, 89, 214, 

Black Vulture, Catharista urubu (Vieill.). pp. 25, 88, 89, 
214, 215. 

Both kinds of vultures were everywhere very abundant. 
Marsh Hawk. Circus hudson'ms (Linn.), pp. 21, 45. 

Very abundant on the tableland. 
Western Red-tailed Hawk. Buteo horealis calurus (Cass.), pp. 
76, 138. 

Not uncommon. 
Sennett White-tailed Hawk. Buteo albicaudatus se7inetti 
Allen, p. 117. 

Two individuals were observed, one near Chapala and one 
near the village of Tuxpan. 
Mexican Black Hawk. Urubitlnga a?ithracma (Licht.). pp. 135, 
136, 137, 139, 250, 316. 

Common in the barrancas and in the low country. 
Mexican Goshawk. Asturlna plagiata Schlegel. pp. 137, 139, 

Laughing Falcon. Herpetotheres cachinnans Vieill. pp. 320, 
324, 328. 

Both of these birds were not uncommon in the barrancas and 
lowlands of Colima. 
Desert Sparrow Hawk. Falco sparverius phaloena (Lesson), 
pp. 21, 32, 42, 45, 51, 57, 94. 
Very abundant everywhere. 

«^ 386 ^ 

:::::::::3E APPENDIX B:"""- 

Audubon Caracara. Polyborus cheriway (Jacq.). pp. 117, 214, 
250, 257, 292, 293, 294. 
Abundant everywhere. 
American Barn Owl. Strix pratincola Bonap. p. 278. 

Observed both near Guadalajara and in the lowlands of Colima. 
Burrowing Owl. Speotijto cxinicularia hypogcea (Bonap.). pp. 
101, 102. 

Common about Guadalajara. 

(Several other species of Owls were seen but could not be 
identified. One very probably was Clccaba squamulata.) 
Thick-billed Parrot. Rhyncopsitta pachyrhyncha (Swains.). 
p. 252. 

Common in the barrancas on the slopes of the volcano of 


FiNscH Amazon Parrot. Amazona finschl (Scl.). pp. 182, 183. 

Common in the barrancas and in the low regions about Colima. 

Red-and-blue-headed Parrakeet. Conurus canicularis (Linn.). 

pp. 178, 181. 

Numerous in the barrancas and in the lowlands. 
Military Macaw. Ara militaris (Linn.), pp. 173, 174, 249, 263, 

Common in the barrancas and in the lowlands. 
Groove-billed Ani. Crotophaga sulcirostris Swains, p. 322. 
Abundant in the lowlands of Colima. Their favourite food 
seemed to be hemiptera, daddy-long-legs, and small berries. 
ROADRUNNER. Geococcyx califomianus (Less.), pp. 177, 178, 232. 

Common in all the desert regions. 
Rufous Cuckoo. Playa mexicana (Swains.), pp. 176, 177, 178. 

Rare in the bai'rancas. Abundant in the tropical lowlands. 
Coppery-tailed Trogon. Trogon ambiguiis Gould, pp. 184, 249, 

Rather common in the higher barrancas of Colima. 
Yellow-bellied Trogon. Trogon citreolus Gould, pp. 304, 305. 
Common in the tropical parts of Colima. 

oi- 387 ^ 

::::::::se APPENDIX ae-""" 

Mexican Motmot. 3Iomotus viexicamis Swains, pp. 198-206, 305. 

Common in the barrancas and in the lowlands of Colima. 
Belted Kingfisher. Ceryle alcyon (Linn.), pp. 72, 317. 

Common near Guadalajara and occasionally seen in the tropics 
of Colima. 
Rufous-bellied Kingfisher. Ceryle torquata (Linn.), p. 318. 

Not uncommon along the streams of the lowlands of Colima. 
Texas, or Little Green Kingfisher. Ceryle americana septen- 
trionalls Sharpe. pp. 142-146, 317, 318. 

Rather rare about Guadalajara. Common in the barrancas in 
the hot country. 
Guatemaxan Woodpecker. CampepMlus guatemalensis 
(Hartl.). p. 288. 

Six observed in the low country of Colima. 
SiNALOA Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Dryobates scalaris si- 
naloensis Ridgw. p. 249. 

Rarely seen in the lower barrancas about the volcano. 
Mexican Pileated Woodpecker. Ceophloeus scajndaris (Vig.). 
p. 208. 

Not uncommon in the barrancas. 
Elegant Woodpecker. Melanerpes elegans (Swains.), pp. 146, 
147, 148. 

Common among the barrancas. 
Gila Woodpecker. Centurus uropygialis Baird. 

A pair seen near the volcano. 
Mexican Goatsucker. Nyctibius jamaicensis mexicanus Nelson, 
pp. 197, 198. 

Three flew past me near a stream in one of the lower bai-ran- 
cas of Colima. 
Parauque. Nyctich'omns albicollis (Gmel.). p. 303. 

Very abundant in the lowlands of Colima. 
Mexican Whip-poor-will. Antrostomus macromystox (Wagl.). 
p. 220. 

Several seen in the barrancas. 

«4 388 ^ 

:::::::::ir appendix BJ"::-" 

RiDGWAY Whip-poor-will. Antrostonms ridgwayi Nelson, pp. 
218, 219. 

Two seen in a barranca near the volcano. 
NiGHTHAWK. Chorde'des sp. ? 

Not uncommon in the lowlands of CoHma. 
Costa Hummingbird. Calypte costca (Bourc). p. 56. 

Many were seen in the ditches about Guadalajara, January 
1st to 8th, but not one observed after that date. 
Blue-crowned Hummingbird. Cyanomyia verticalis (Licht.). 
p. 96. 

Very abundant. Associated with the Broad-billed Humming- 
Rufous Hummingbird. Selasphorus rvfus (Gmel.). p. 56. 

Common about Guadalajara. 
Broad-billed Hummingbird. lache latirostris (Swains.), p. 

Common in the barrancas near Guadalajara. 
Fork-tailed, or Golden-backed Hummingbird. Chlorostilbon 
aicrlceps (Gould), pp. 150, 151. 

Very abundant in the lower barrancas about the volcano of 
Xantus Becard. Platypsaris albiventris (Lawr.). p. 331. 
Several seen near our camp in the lowlands of Colima. 
Gray-headed Tityra. Tityra personata griseiceps Ridgw. p. 

Faix'ly common in the lower arroyos of Colima. Their fa- 
vourite food was a berry with triangular pits, together with large 
SwAiNSON Wood-hewer. Dendrornis Jiavigaster (Swains.), pp. 
323, 324. 

Several individuals observed in the coastal region of Colima. 
Cassin Kingbird. Tyrannus vociferans Swains, p. 189. 

This yellow-bellied Kingbird was common about the streams 
in the barrancas. 

«4 389 ^ 

""""^ APPENDIX je;::::::: 

PiTANGUA Tyrant. Megarkynchus pitangua (Linn.), pp. 189, 
190, 249. 

This giant Flycatcher was common everywhere from four 
thousand feet elevation to sea-level in Colima. 
Derby Flycatcher. Pitangns derbiamis (Kaup). pp. 155, 156, 
163, 189. 

Abundant everywhere, especially along the streams. 
GiRAUD Flycatcher. Myiozetetes similis stijjerciliosus (Bonap.). 
p. 189. 

Rather rare in the upper Colima barrancas. Smaller than 
the Cassin Kingbird and very striking in its colouration, — 
greenish above, bright yellow below, with a very distinct 
white throat and line encircling the crown, which latter is fiery 
Ash-throated Flycatcher. Myiarchus cinerasce7is (Lawr.). 
pp. 76, 187. 

Very abundant, especially on the tableland deserts, among the 
Querulous Flycatcher. Myiarchus lawrenceii querulus Nelson. 
p. 187. 

Common about camp in the lower arroyos of the volcano. A 
small, long-billed bird dressed in quiet hues. 
Black Phcebe. Sayornis iiigricans (Swains.), pp. 186, 192, 209, 

Abundant everywhere along streams from the tableland to 
the Pacific. 
Olive-sided Flycatcher. Nuttallornis borealis (Swains.). 
Two of these old friends of the North came under our obser- 
vation at Coquimatlan in the lowlands of Colima. 
SwAiNsON Flycatcher. Horizojyns musicus (Swains.), p. 187. 
A phoebe-like species common about our camps in the upper 
and lower barrancas of the volcano. 
Least Flycatcher. Emjyklonax minimus Baird. p. 188. 

A small, loose flock observed several times near camp in a 

«4 390 ^ 

M APPENDIX m::::::::; 

lower barranca ; the only flycatchers which seemed to remain 
together in any association which could be called a flock. 
Vermilion Flycatcher. Pyrocephalus rxibineus mexicanus 
(Scl.). pp. 70, 71, 91, 92, 93, 187. 

Very abundant everywhere on the tableland all across the 
continent ; less so at lower elevations in Colima. 
Beardless Flycatcher. Ornithion imberhe (Scl.). p. 190. 

Several seen in the lower barrancas of Colima feeding on tiny 
berries. These birds were very wary. 
Long-tailed Blue Jay, or Magpie Jay. Calocitta colliei (Vig.). 
pp. 174, 175, 176, 178, 320. 

Abundant from Tuxpan (about four thousand feet) to the sea- 
level in Colima. 
American Raven. Coi'viis corax sinuatus (Wagl.). pp. 75, 

Rarely seen about Guadalajara and in the barrancas of the 
White-necked Raven. Corvns cryptolencns Couch, p. 104. 

Very abundant on the deserts of the tableland. 
Mexican Crow. Corvus mexicanus Gmel. 

Several seen in Vera Cruz. 
CowBiRD. Molofhrus sp.? pp. 32, 117. 

Unidentified birds were in the same flocks with the Red- 
Red-eyed Cowbird. Callothms rohusUis (Cab.), p. 117. 

Great flocks of these birds were common at Chapala and 
along the line of the Mexican Central Railroad in western 
Yellow-headed Blackbird. Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus 
(Bonap.). pp. 64, 65, 115, 116. 

Vex-y abundant about Guadalajara and Chapala. 
BicoLOURED Blackbird. Agelaius gubernator californicus Nel- 
son, pp. 115, 116. 

Immense flocks were feeding in the Chapala marshes. 

«4 391 -^ " 

::::::::si: APPENDIX B::::::::: 

Mexican Me ado wl ark. Sturnella magna viexicana (Scl.). pp. 
114, 115, 116, 349. 

Common at Chapala and in the fields and along the trails in 
the lowlands of Colima. 
Mexican Cacique. Cassiculus melanicterus (Bonap.). pp. 284, 

Very abundant in the lowlands of Colima. Rare in the ujjper 
barrancas around the volcanos. A large unidentified species of 
Oriole or Cacique was seen twice in the low country. 
Wagler Oriole. Icterus wagleri Scl. p. 149. 

Abundant in the barrancas about Guadalajara and from Tux- 
pan to the Pacific. 
Arizona Hooded Oriole. Icterus cucullatus nelsoni Ridg. 

One individual seen at Tuxpan. 
Bullock Oriole. Icterus hullocki (Swains.). 

Four seen near Guadalajara. 
Brewer Blackbird. Euphagus cyanocephalus (Wagl.). p. 61. 
This beautiful blue-black bird was abundant in the cities, as- 
sociating in flocks with the Boat-tails. 
Great-tailed, or Boat-tailed Grackle. Megaquiscalus major 
subsp.? pp. 61, 72. 

This bird, in one of its subspecific forms, was abundant in all 
the western towns and cities which we visited. 
CuERNAVACA HousE FiNCH. Carjioclacus mexicanus rhodocolpus 
(Caban.). pp. 46, 62. 

Very abundant in and about Guadalajara. 
Arkansas Goldfinch. Astragali nus p>saltria (Say). 

A small flock were observed in an upper barranca of Colima, 
feeding on the eggs of insects. 
Mexican Goldfinch. Astragalinus psaltria viexicanus 
(Swains.), p. 99. 

Several seen near Guadalajara. 
FoRRER Siskin. Spinus notatus forreri (Salv. & Godm.). p. 252. 
Rarely seen among the pines on the upper slopes of the 

<4 392 #» 

:::;:::::^ APPENDIX 3fe:::::::: 

volcano. A beautifully marked bird, — green, yellow, and 
Western Grasshopper Sparrow. Coturnlculus savannarum 
himaculatus (Swains.), p. 51. 
Rarely seen about Guadalajara. 
Westerist Lark Sparrow. Chondestes grammmcus strigatus 
(Swains.), pp. 45, 55. 

Very abundant about Guadalajara. 
Clay-coloured Sparrow. Sjjlzella jpalllda (Swains.), pp. 45, 

Very common about Guadalajai-a. 
Brewer Sparrow. Spizella breweri Cass. p. 94. 

A flock of these birds were seen near Guadalajara. One, with 
a diseased foot, was found dead. 
CoLiMA Ground Sparrow. Aimophila acuminata Salv. & Godm. 
p. 348. 

A very handsome black-and-white-headed sparrow ; extremely 
fearless and seen in great flocks along the old Spanish road 
from the city of Colima to Tonila. 
Lincoln Sparrow. Melosjjiza Uncoiml (Aud.). p. 102. 

One found entangled in a thorn-bush near Guadalajara. This 
was the only specimen seen on our trip. 
Xantus Ground Sparrow. Melozone rubricatum xantusii 
(Lawr.). p. 249. 

Often seen in the bottoms of the lower barrancas, where a 
single individual would make a great racket, scratching like 
a Towhee among the dead leaves. Its bright rufous cap and 
conspicuous white eye-ring made it easy to identify. 
SiNALOA Sparrow. Arremonops superciliosus smaloce Nelson- 
p. 308. 

Not uncommon in the lowlands of Colima. Not distinguish- 
able in life from the Texas sparrow of our Southwestern States. 
Brown Towhee. Pijyilo fuscus Swains, pp. 52, 113. 

A^ery common in and about Guadalajara and Tuxpan. 

«4- 39.S ^ 

::::;::;3g: APPENDIX ae::::::;: 

Green-tailed Towhee. Oreospiza chlorura (Aud.). p. 52. 

Common about Guadalajara. 
Arizona Pyrrhuloxia. FyrrJmloxia simiata Bonap. p. 47. 

A pair of these beautiful birds were seen in a Guadalajara 
Black-headed Grosbeak. Zavielodia vielanocejjhala (Swains.), 
pp. 308, 349. 

Common along the Colima trail from that city to the volcano. 
The most abundant of all the Frlngillidce in the lowlands of 
the coastal region of Colima. 
Western Blue Grosbeak. Guiraca coerulea lazula (Lesson). 
p. 350. 

Fairly common in all the barrancas of the volcano of Colima. 
The males were in beautiful plumage early in February. 
Varied Bunting. Cyanosjnza versicolor (Bonap.). pp. 195, 350. 
Common only along the edges of the barranca streams and 
on the Colima trail, in company with flocks of Black-headed 
Painted Bunting, or Nonpareil. Cyanospiza c'lris (Linn.), p. 

One male flew across the Colima trail before us. 
Leclancher, or Rainbow Bunting. Cyanospiza leclancheri 
(Lafres.). p. 321. 

Common in the Colima lowlands. Rare in the lower barran- 
cas of the volcano. 
Turquoise-fronted Bunting. Cyanocomp)sa j^arellina indigo- 
tica Ridgw. p. 308. 

Not uncommonly found with the Leclancher. The dull brown 
females were especially abundant. 
GoDMAN EuPHONiA. Euphonia godmani Brewst. p. 194. 

Several small flocks observed in a grove of wild tig-trees near 
a stream in a lower reach of one of the barrancas. 
Louisiana Tanager. Plraiiga ludoviciana (Wils.). p. 149. 
Two or three seen in the higher barrancas of Colima. 

«4 394 #* 

::::::::^ APPENDIX B::::::::: 

Hepatic Tanager. Piranga hepatica Swains, p. 308. 

Not uncommon near water in the lowlands of Colima. 
Summer TajSTAGEr. Piranga rubra (Linn.), p. 208. 

Two pairs frequented our camp in a lower barranca of the 
Barn Swallow. Hirundo erythrogastra Bodd. pp. 107, 108. 
Several seen in the village of La Barca, where they were be- 
ginning to nest late in March. 
Violet-green Swallow. Tachycineta thalassina (Swains.), pp. 
107, 191. 

Very abundant along the upper barranca streams. 
White-rumped Shrike. Lanius ludovicianus excubitorides 
(Swains.), pp. 32, 51, 94, 130. 

Common everywhere on the tableland. 
Cassin Vireo. Vireo soUtarius cassinii (Xantus). 

One bird shot in the Barranca Atenquiqui. 
Black-capped Vireo. Vireo atricajnllus Woodh. p. 300. 

Abundant near camp in the lowlands. These birds were dap- 
per little insect hunters, green-backed, black-capped, and white- 
Yellow-bellied Vireo. Vireo hypochryseus Scl. p. 154. 

Faii'ly common in the upper barrancas. 
Black and White Warbler. Mniotilta varia (Linn.), p. 

One seen in a thick jungle in the Colima coast region. 
Virginia Warbler. Helminthophila virginice (Baird). p. 155. 

Very common about our camp in an upper barranca. 
Nashville Warbler. Helminthophila rubi'icapilla (Wils.). p. 

At times there were twenty and thirty in sight at once near 
our camp in the Colima lowlands. 
LuTESCENT Warbler. Helminthophila celata lutescens (Ridgw.). 
p. 52. 

Quite common in the Guadalajara ditches. 

«4 395 ^ 

::::::::^ APPENDIX B::""-: 

Yellow Warbler. Dendroica cestiva (Gmel.). 

Fairly common during two days of our stay in the lowlands 
of Colima. 
Audubon Warbler. Dendroica auduhonl (Towns.), pp. 60, 61? 
154, 252. 

Abundant in every village and city which we visited and 
among the pines on the volcano of Colima. 
Black-throated Gray Warbler. Dendroica nigrescens. 
(Towns.), p. 204. 

One seen in a wild portion of a lower barranca of Colima. 
Towxsend Warbler. Dendroica toivnseyuli (Towns.), p. 300. 

Not uncommon in the lowlands of Colima. 
Louisiana Water-Thrush. Seiurus motacilla (VieilL). p. 315. 
Rare in the upper barranca streams; common near water in 
the Colima lowlands. 
DuBus Red-breasted Chat. Grayiatellus venustus Bonap. p. 

Fairly common in the hot lands. 
PiLEOLATED Warbler. Wilsonia pusilla pileolata (Pall.), pp. 
100, 204, 249. 

Common at every elevation in all kinds of country, — desert, 
jungle, and canyon. 
Painted Redstart. Setophaga picta Swains, pp. 246, 249, 308. 
Abundant and conspicuous in the lower barrancas, at an ele- 
vation of two thousand feet and lower. 
DuGES Warbler. Basileuterus rufifrons dugesi Ridgw. p. 195. 

Very rare and local in an arroyo near the Colima volcano. 
Western Mockingbird. Minuis ^iohjglottos leucopterus (Vigors), 
pp. 55, 94, 130, 239. 

Abundant in the chaparral about Guadalajara and in the 
upper barrancas. 
Curve-billed Thrasher. Toxostoma curvirostre (Swains.), pp. 
93, 113, 129. 

Common in the "cactus country." 

«4 396 ^ 

::::::::se APPENDIX B::::::::: 

Mexican Cactus Wren. Heleodytes hrunneicapilhis ohsnirus 
Nelson, p. 95. 

Common in the mesquite about Guadalajara. One was shot 
with large swellings on its feet and legs ; perhaps from injuries 
received from spines and thorns. 
Oak Forest Wren. Heleodytes gularis (Scl.). p. 307. 

Found in colonies of about six, which kept together in some 
favourite portion of the jungle near running water in the tropical 
Mexican Canyon Wren. Catherpes mexicanus (Swains.), pp. 
62, 140, 142, 149, 161, 217, 257, 263. 

Common in Guadalajara and in the upper barrancas. 
Sinaloa Wren. Thryophilus sinaloa Baird. p. 101. 

Occasional in the barrancas near Guadalajara. Their last 
year's nests were very common. Several unidentified house- 
wren-like species were observed in the barrancas. 
Lloyd Bush-Tit. Psaltrqjarus melanotis lloydi (Sennett). p. 94. 
Several were seen in the mesquite near Guadalajara. Saw one 
killed and left by a shrike. 
Western Gnatcatcher. Polio2^tila ccerulea obscura Ridgw. 
pp. 100, 101, 154. 

Abundant everywhere. 
Mazatlan Solitaire. Myadestes ohscurus occidentalis Stejn. 
pp. 247, 248, 250. 

Rather rare in one of the lower barrancas of the volcano. 
Jalisco Catharus. Catharus melpomene clarus Jouy. 

Several seen in a small grove of trees in a lower reach of a 
barranca bordering the hot lands of Colima. 
Western Robin. Merida inigratoria propinqua Ridgw. p. 194. 
Several were seen in the barrancas and near small streams in 
the lowlands. 
Red-backed Robin, or Yellow-billed Robin. Merula flavi- 
rosfris Swains, p. 306. 
Common in the lowlands. 

«# 397 ^ 

::::::::3K APPENDIX ^:::::::: 

Gray-breasted Robin. Merula tristis Swains, p. 306. 

Rather rare, associated with the Red-backed species. 
Bluebird. Sialia sialis (Linn.), p. 252. 

Common among the pines on the upper slopes of the volcano. 

Mexican Opossum. Didelphls mesamericana Oken. pp. 276, 277, 
282, 295. 

Not uncommon in the barrancas and abundant in the Colima 
Nine-banded Armadillo. Tatu novemcinctum (Linn.), pp. 225, 
236, 237, 258, 276, 282. 

Abundant everywhere from the tableland to the Pacific. 
Collared Peccary. Tayassu angulatum humerale Merriam. 
pp. 328, 330. 

Several individuals seen in the lowlands. The natives say 
that they are harmless. 
Mexican Deer. Odocoileus sp.? pp. 207, 220, 258, 360. 

Common, especially in the upper barrancas. I captured alive, 
in Jalisco, and brought back to New York, a young buck, which 
is without doubt the Nelson Deer, Odocoileus nelsoni (Merr.). 
Black-faced Brocket. Mazama sartorll (Saussure). pp. 328- 

I saw a pair of the horns of this small deer in the possession 
of an Indian, but we could not induce him to part with them. 
He told me that the animal had been shot a few miles to the 
Tapir. Tapirella bairdii (Gill). 

Said to be not uncommon a few miles west from our camp in 
the hot country, 
Mexican Gray Squirrel. Sc'mrns polioptis cervlcalis (Allen), 
p. 288. 

Common in burrows in the coastal region of Colima. A large, 
very dark, or black squirrel was twice seen in a lower barranca. 
«4 398 #» 

:::n:::si: APPENDIX 1^:::::::: 

FlyinGt-Squirrels (or a species of mouse with great leaping 
power), pp. 224, 256. 

Occasionally seen at night in the barrancas. Never identified. 
Red-bellied Ground Squirrel. Citellus annulatus (Aud. & 
Bach.), pp. 70, 288, 289, 292. 

Very abundant, living in the crevices of cliffs about Guadala- 
jara and in the low country of Colima. 
Mexican Spermophile. Citellus mexlcanus (Erxleben). pp. 59, 

Common in burrows in the Guadalajara ditches. 
Jalisco Pouched Rat. Llomys sp. ? pp. 58, 59. 

Very abundant associated with the above. At least five spe- 
cies of wild mice were common near all our camps. Our skins 
and skulls were lost by an accident. 
Jaguar. Fells hernandesll (Gray), pp. 257, 330. 

Occasionally heard roaring in the lower barrancas. Their skins 
were now and then brought into the villages in the low regions 
of Colima. In the isolated haciendas they were said to kill the 
Tiger-Cat, or Ocelot. Fells pardaUs Linn. p. 330. 

We heard frequent reports of this animal in the lower parts 
of Colima, and saw its skins. 
Yaguarondi Cat. Fells yagouaroundl tolteca Thomas, pp. 326, 
327, 330. 

I saw one and found the skull of another. The Mexicans 
knew little about it. They called it Leonclllo. 
Guatemalan Gray Fox. Urocyon guatemake Miller, pp. 225- 

Common in all the barrancas and at sea-level in Colima. 
Coyote. Canis vlgllls Merriam. pp. 274, 276. 

Common in the open lowlands. Said to feed upon armadillos. 
Great-tailed Skunk. Mephitis macroiira Licht. pp. 279, 280, 
282, 283, 294, 295. 

Common in the barrancas and in the low country. 

«4- 399 ^ 

::::::::^ APPENDIX ^:::::::: 

Lesser Skunk. Spilogale sp. ? 

A small species of skunk was occasionally seen near the vol- 
White-nosed Coati Mondi. Nasua narica violaris Merriam. 
pp. 280-282. 

All the Mexicans believe that there are two species of Coati 
or tajon, one of which hunts in bands, while the other, a larger 
kind, is always found alone. One of the latter kind which we 
secured proved to be an old scarred male, so probably this tajon 
Tnajor is only an occasional ostracized individual. 
Mexican Raccoon. Procyon lotor heimandezii (Wagl.). pp. 162- 
164, 209, 220, 223, 281, 282. 

The individuals which we saw and shot were all of large size. 
Very abundant everywhere except on the tableland. 
Ring-tailed Cat. Bassariscus asttctus (Licht.). pp. 220-223, 
281, 282. 

Plentiful both in the barrancas and lowlands. 
Black Bear. Ursus americarvus Pall. p. 328. 

A report came to us again and again of three bears which 
had been shot in Tepic and in the northern mountains of Jalisco. 
I obtained a good-sized tooth from an Indian hunter. This bear 
is called Oso by the Mexicans. 
Vampire. Desmochcs rotundus (E. Geof.). pp. 270, 276. 

Rather common in the Coliraa lowlands. One, which found its 
way one night into the house with us, tried to escape but made 
no attempt to disturb us. Near camp I found one dead, hanging 
in a dense thicket close to a hollow tree. It had evidently been 
dead some days. 
Small Bat. Sp. ? pp. 217, 218, 360. 

Very abundant near our camp in the lowlands. 



Acacias, 152, 270. 
Adobe houses, 38-40, 107. 
Agiia Azul, Oasis of, 66-82. 
Alkali desert, 82-90. 

dust, 81. 
Anis, 8. 

Groove-billed, 320, 385. 
Ant-lion, pits of, 243. 
Ants, 103. 

black, 130. 

leaf -carrying, 152-154, 243. 

nests in trees, 319, 320. 

tunnels of tree, 192-194. 

wood, 312. 
ArmadUlo, 223, 250, 280. 

Nine-banded, 234, 235, 
276, 396. 
Arroyo del Muerte, 228-257. 
Atenquiqui, Barranca of, 130-169,360. 

Bassariscus. See Ring-tailed Cat. 
Bats, 9, 215. 216, 360, 398. 

horde of, 272, 274. 
Bear, 328, 398. 

Becard, Xantus, 330, 331, 388. 
Beetles, 21. 

tiger, 18, 210. 
water, 209. 
Berries, 186, 190, 279, 308. 
Birthwort, 294-299. 
Bittern, 11. 
Blackbirds, 25, 61, 115, 117. 

Bieoloured, 115, 390. 

Brewer, 61, 391. 

Red-winged, 9, 116. 

Yellow - headed, 63-65, 
Blackfish, 2. 

Blnebill. See Lesser Scaup Duck. 
Bluebirds, 2.50, 396. 
Boa, Mexican, 276, 277. 
Bob-White, 2.50. 

Grayson, 385. 

Booby, 12, 381. 

Red-footed, 335, 381, 
Bougainvillea, 53. 

Bunting, Leclancher or Rainbow, 321, 
Painted, 349, 393. 
Turquoise-fronted, S06, 393. 
Varied, 195, 350, 393. 
Butterflies, abundance of, 164, 165. 
at carrion, 293. 
at pools, 208-211. 
injured by birds, 293. 
leaf, 241-243. 
like Nortliern ones, 99, 100. 
Buzzards. See Vultures. 

Cacique, Mexican, 282-284, 390. 
Cactus, 40, 42, 54, 55, 91, 171, 234, 270. 
candelabra. See Organ cactus, 
nopal, 230. 

organ, 85, 104, 206, 2.30. 
Camp, in Barranca Atenquiqui, 131- 
in tropics, 268-273. 
outfit for, 364-374. 
provisions for, 370, .371. 
Canvas-back, 119, 383. 
Caracaras, 117, 248, 255, 290-292. 

Audubon, 386. 
Catbird, 8. 
Catfish, giant, 109. 

Cat, Ring-tailed, 218-221, 279, 280, 
Tiger. See Ocelot. 
Catharus, Jalisco, 396. 
Cave-dwellers, 35. 
Century-plant, 244. 
Cereus, Night-blooming, 53, 244, 253, 

Chachalaea, Wagler,324, 327,328, 385. 
Chapala, Lake of, 109-111. 

marshes of, 109-121. 
Chat, Du Bus Red-breasted, 288, 394, 

,.«4 403 ■^- 

::::::::SK INDEX B^:::::::: 

Clematis, wild, 184. 
Coati Mondi, 278-280. 

White-nosed, 398. 
Colima, city of, 2(\o, 340-347. 

volcano of, 123-130, 132, 133, 

227, 235, 261, 265, 207, 

270, 337, 352-357, 358, 


Condor, 204. 

Coot, American, 73, 74, 77, 113, 118, 

123, 384. 
Coquimatldn, 265, 266. 
Cormorants, 217, 332. 
Florida, 6. 

Mexican, 78, 123, 190, 
215, 381. 
Cowbirds, 32, 390. 

Red-eyed, 117, 390. 
Coyotes, 272, 274. 
Crabs, 18. 

fresh-water, 164. 
Crane, Sandhill, 384. 
Creeper. Black and White. See Black 

and White Warbler. 
Crow, Mexican, 390. 
Cuba, 6-9. 

Cuckoo, Rufous, 176-178, 387. 
Curassow, 320. 
Curlew, Long-billed, 118, 385. 

Daddv-long-legs, 238, 239. 
Dahlias, wild, 99. 
Deer, 197, 218, 360. 

Mexican, 205, 256, 396. 
Nelson, 396. 
Ditches of Guadalajara, 40-59. 
Diver, Great Northern. See Loon. 
Dolphins, 2. 
Doves, 184, 185. 

Ground, 9. 

Inca, 61, 185, 385. 

Mexican Ground, 185, 385. 

Mourning, 103, 104, 185, 186, 
216. 385. 

White-fronted, 216, 248, 385. 

White-winged, 290, 300, 301, 
Dragon-fly, 239-241. 
Ducks, 32, 75,77, 80, 113, 119. 

Canvas-back, 119, 383. 

Gadwall, 118, 119, 382. 

Ducks, Lesser Scaup, 4, 113, 119, 123, 
Mallard, 73, 118, 123, 190, 382. 
Pintail. 73, 74, 119, 383. 
ShoveUer, 73,74, 119, 123, 382. 

Eagle, Harpy, 288. 
Egrets, 79, 118. 

American, 78, 79, 123, 383. 

Reddish, 118,383. 
Euphonia, Godman, 194, 393. 

Falcon, Laughing, 320, 321, 324, 327, 

328, 386. 
Fern, Maidenhair, 244. 
Finch, Cuernavaca House, 46, 47, 60, 

63, 391. 
Fish, 18, 207. 

dying in lagoon, 332. 
Fljnng, 9, 10. 
Needle, 11. 
Florida, 4-6. 
Fly, Black, 285, 286, 295-298. 

Ichneumon, 9. 
Flvcatchers,21, 71, 178, 186, 187, 189, 
337, 338. 
Ash-throated, 76, 187, 389. 
Beardless, 190, 390. 
Derby, 155, 156, 163, 164, 

189, 389. 
Girard, 189, 389. 
Least, 188, 189, 389. 
Olive-sided, 389. 
Querulous, 187, 389. 
Swainson, 187, 389. 
Vermilion, 70-72, 389 ; 
courtship of, 91-93. 
Fox, 256, 269, 271. 

Guatemala n Silver-gray, 223-226. 
Frigate-bird. See Man-o'-War Bird. 
Frog-bird. See Gray headed Tityra. 
Frogs, 336. 

eggs, 207. 
Fruit, the grotesque, 288-290. 

Gadwall, 118, 119, 382. 
Gall, Cotton, 287, 288. 
Gallinule, 77, 123. 

Purple. 384. 
Gannet, 2, 12, 381. 
Garden, ZoblogicaL of Mexico City, 31. 

••e4 404 #>•' 

::::::::ag INDEX vfe:::;:::: 

Geese, White-fronted, 119, 120, oS'-j. 

Snow, 120, 121, 38:!. 
Gnatcatcher, Western, 100, 101, 154, 

Goatsuckers, 197. 

Mexican, 198, 388. 
Goldfinch, Arkansas, 391. 

Mexican, 99, 391. 
Goshawk, Mexican, 137-140, 386. 
Grackles, 01, 02, 72. 

Boat-tailed. -See Great-tailed. 
Brewer. See Brewer Black- 
Great-tailed, 61, 391. 
Grasshoppers, 51, 57, 58, 117, 318. 
Grebe, Least, 119, 380. 
Pied-billed, 380. 
Western. 75, 110, 380. 
Grosbeak, Black-headed, 306, .349, 392. 

Western Blue, 350, 392. 
Guadalajara, 36-82. 
Guan, 330. 

Gull, Bonaparte, 381. 
Herring-, 2, 380. 
Ring-billed, 2, 380. 

Hatteras, 2. 

Havana, 6, 7, 9. 

Hawk, Caracara. See Caracara. 

Coon. See Laughing- Falcon. 
Desert .Sparrow, 21, 32, 42, 45, 

51, 57, 94, 386. 
Marsh, 21, 48, 385. 
Mexican Black, 13-5-137, 139, 

140, 148, 316, 317, 386. 
Sennett White-tailed, 117, 386. 
Western Red-tailed, 76, 138, 
139, 386. 
Heliconia, 105, 248. 
Herons, 118, 119. 

Black-crowned Night, 384. 
Boat-billed, 325-327, 384. 
Great Blue, 78, 86, 118, 123, 

332, 383. 
Little Blue, 302, 315, 384. 
Green, 78, 123, 384. 
Louisiana, 384. 
Hornet, 165. 

Hummingbirds, 40, 55, 56, 57, 58, 99, 
101, 237, 307, 310. 
Blue-crowned, 96, 388. 

Hummingbirds, Broad-billed, 96, 388. 

Costa, 56, 388. 

Fork-tailed or Golden- 
back, 150, 151,388. 

Rufous, 56, 388. 
Hyacinth, Water, 74. 

Ibis, White, 316, 383. 

White-faced Glossy, 75, 119, 123, 

383 ; flight of, 81, 82. 
Wood, 5, 332, 383. 
Iguana, 58, 157-160, 162, 163, 214, 
215, 247, 3.50. 

breaking off tail, 230-234. 
Insects, absence of troublesome, 279. 

abundance of, 164, 186. 

drinking at pools, 208-211. 

effect of cold upon, 21. 

fertilizing Birthwort, 294-299. 

in January, 98. 

mimicry of, 238-243. 

washed ashore, 18. 
Ixtaccihuatl, 30. 

Jacana, 123. 

Mexican, 79, 80, 385. 
Jaguar, 2.55, 330, 397. 
Jardin Botanico de Universidad, 7-9. 
Jay, Long-crested Blue or Magpie, 
174-176, 178, 320, 390. 

Keys, the, 5. 

Killdeer, 19, 117, 134, 135, 385. 
Kingbird, Cassin, 189, 389. 
Kingfisher, Belted, 72,317, 318, 387. 
Rufous-bellied, 317, 318, 

Texas or Little Green, 
142-146, 317, 318, 387. 

Ladies' Paint-Brush, 99. 
Lantanas, 99. 

Lizard, 9, 58, 134, 140, 156-160, 178, 
197, 207, 230, 237, 277, 319. 

green, 157, 158. 

blue-tailed, 58. 
Lobelia, wild, 48. 
Loon, 2, 110, 380. 

Macaw, Military, 173, 174, 247, 248, 
261, 281, 282, 386. 

«^ 405 ^- 

::::::::a(v: INDEX xfe:::::::: 

Maguey plants, 29, 31, 32. 
Mallard, 73, 118, 123, 190, 382. 
Mammoth, tooth of, 86-88. 
Man-o'-War, Portuguese, 3, 21. 
Man-o"-War Bird, 5, 6, 382. 
Manzanillo, 331-335. 
Marshes of Chapala, 109-121. 
Meadowlark, Mexican, 114-1 IG, 390. 
Mesquite, 40, 85, 88, 129, 255. 

wilderness of, 91-105. 
Mexicans, about camp, 337, 338. 

home life of, 207, 268. 

love of music, 342. 

misery of, 284, 285. 

women, 338, 339. 

skill with lasso, 346, 347. 

superstitions of, 127, 128, 
269, 277. 
Mexico, money of, 364. 
Mexico, City of, 31. 
Mice, wild, 222, 254, 274, 279, 280. 
Midge. See Black Fly. 
Mockingbird, Western, 9, 55, 94, 130, 

237, 395. 
Monkeys, 286. 

Moss, mimicked by Daddy-long-legs. 

238, 239. 
Moths, 18, 21. 

Hawk, 254. 

Sphinx, 21. 
Motmot, Mexican, 198-204, 303, 304, 

Mule, psychology of, 262-264. 
Musicians, blind, 32, 35. 

Nighthawk, 388. 

Nonpareil. See Painted Bunting. 

Norther, 16-20. 

Ocelot, 330, 397. 
Opossum, 293. 

Mexican, 274, 275, 280, 396. 
Orchids, 238, 270. 
Orioles, 9, 149, 261. 

Arizona Hooded, 391. 
Bullock, 391. 
Wagler, 149, 391. 
Orizaba, peak of, 14, 15, 22, 30. 

town of, 21-25. 
Owls, 273. 

Barn, 276, 386. 

Owls, Burrowing, 101, 102, 386. 
Horned, 162, 163, 221. 

Parauque, 301, 302, 388. 
Parrakeets, 320. 

178, 179, 386. 
Parrots, 174, 178, 338. 

Finsch Amazon, 182-184,281, 

Thick-billed, 250, 252, 386. 
Partridge, Scaled, 266, 385. 
Patio, advantages of, 39, 40. 
Peccary, Collared, 328, 330, 396. 
Pelican, 113. 

Brown, 4, 18, 382. 

California Brown, 335, 382. 

White, 110, 111, 382. 
Petrel, Stormy or Wilson, 2, 19. 
Petunias, wild, 99. 

Phoebe, Black or Rock, 186, 192, 207, 

Pigeon, Band-tailed, 290, 385. 
Pines, of Colima, 249-251. 
Pintail, 73, 74, 119, 383. 
Pipit, American, 9. 
Plover, 117, 118. 

Killdeer, 19, 117, 134, 135, 885. 
Popocatepetl, 30. 
Poppies, Mexican, 48. 
Progreso, 11, 12. 
Pulque, 29, 32, 254. 
Pyramids, Aztec, of the sun and moon, 

Quail, 338. 

Scaled, 368, 385. 

Raccoons, Mexican, 162-164, 207, 218, 

221, 279, 280, 398. 
Rainy season, approach of, 335-337. 
Rat, Jalisco Pouched, 58, 59. 
Rattlesnakes, 109, 277, 360. 
Ravens, 86, 184. 

American, 75, 76, 390. 

White-necked, evening flight 
of, 104, 105, 390. 
Redstart, Painted, 244, 247, 306, 395. 
Redwing, 9, 116. 
Resurrection plant, 236. 

•«4 406 |»" 

::::::::3e INDEX m:::::::: 

Rio Grande de Santiago, 95, 96, 109. 
Road, old Spanish, 0-49, 350, 
Roadrunuers, 177, 178, 230, 387. 
Robins, 194. 

Gray-breasted, 304, 390. 

Red-backed or Yellow-billed, 
304, 390. 

Western, 396. 

Sanderling, 4. 

Sandpipers, 2, 77, 79, 113, 315. 

Solitary, 134-130, 384. 
Spotted, 385. 
Scorpion, common, 273. 

whip, 273. 
Seed-pods, 48-50. 
Shai'ks, 12. 

Shoveller, 73, 74, 119, 123, 382. 
Shrikes, 32, 55, 57. 

White-rumped, 51, 94, 130, 
Siskin, Forrer, 257, 391. 
Skinks, 9. 
Skippei's, 208. 
Skunk, 292, 293. 

Great-tailed, 277, 278, 280. 

Lesser, 398. 
Small-pox, 337. 
Snake-bird, 381. 
Snapper, Red, 12. 
Snipe, 77. 

Wilson, 19, 103, 384. 
Solitaire, Mazatlan, 243-246, 247, 248, 

Sparrows, 57, 60. 

Brewer, 94, 392. 
Clav-coloured, 45, 51, 391. 
English, 8, 00. 
Grasshopper, 51, 391. 
Lincoln, 102, 103, 392. 
Western Lark, 45, 46, 55, 
Spermophiles, 59, 280. 

Mexican, 397. 
Spider. 10.5-167, 273.^ 
Spoonbill, Roseate, 383. 
Squirrel, Black, 194. 

Mexican Gray, 286, 397. 
Red-bellied Gray, 70, 286, 
287, 290. 

Stilt, Bl.ack-necked, 77, 118, 119, 123. 
Swallow, Barn, 107, 108, 393. 

Violet-green, 107, 191, 192, 

215, 393. 
White-bellied. See Violets 

Tableland, Mexican, 20-121. 
Tadpole, 207. 
Tanagers, 149, 200. 

Hepatic, 306, 393. 
Louisiana, or Western, 149, 

Summer, 206, 393. 
Tapir, 396. 
Tarantula, 273. 
Teal 215. 

' "Blue-winged, 73, 119, 123, 382. 
Cinnamon, 74, 119, 191, 382. 
Thrasher, Curve-billed, 93, 113, 130, 

Tityra, Gray-headed, 229, 230, 388. 
Toad-hoppers, 210. 
Tonila, 200, 201, 350. 
Towhee, 55, 59. 

BroAvn, 51. 52, 113, 392. 
Green-tailed, 52, 392. 
Travel, routes of, 304. 

Trees ; flowering of, 90, 99, 148-150, 
Cotton, 148, 335. 
Fig, 192, 210, 211, 261, 262, 

270, 314, 315. 
Milk-weed, 287. 
Parrot-fruit, 181, 182. 
Trogons, 256. 

Coppery-tailed, 184,215,247. 

305, 387. 
Yellow-bellied, 302, 303, 387 
Turkeys, 330. 
Tuxpan, 123-139, 258, 259. 
Tyrant, Pitangua, 189, 190, 247, 389. 

Vampire, 268, 274, 398. 
Vegetation, efFect of norther on, 20. 
from coast to tableland, 

21, 25, 20. 
of alkali desert, 82-86. 
of arrovo. 229, 230, 236, 
238, 243, 244, 246, 250. 

■«4 407 ^.. 

M INDEX ae; 

Vegetation, of raesquite wilderness, i'l. 
of Rio Santiago, 1)5, 90. 
semi-tropical, loO. 
of tropical swamp, ;]li4. 
of tropics, '2G9, 270. 
warfare and struggles of, 


Vera Cruz, 1(>-19. 
Verbenas, Ground, 48. 
Vine, Trumpet-Trap. See Birthwort. 
blossoms of, parasitic, olo, 314. 
Vireo, Black-cap, 298, 394. 
Cassin, 393. 

Yellow-bellied, 154, 394. 
Volcano, of Colima. See Colima. 
Vueltran, Barranca of, 170, 357. 
Vultures, 4, 10, SO, 159, 160,212, 225, 
220, 292. 
attacking Iguana, 214. 
Black, 25, 88, 213, 384. 
flight of, 88-90. 
gathering for a feast, 212- 

Turkey, 7, 61, 88, 213, 385. 

Warblers, 288. 

Audubon. 60, 01, 154, 250, 

Black and White, 305, 394. 
Black-throated Gray, 202, 

Dug^s, 195, 395. 
Hooded, 0. 
Lutescent, 52, .394. 
Myrtle, 8. 

Nashville, 298, 394. 
Pileolated, 100, 202, 247. 

Scarlet Ground. See Du 

Bus Red-breasted Chat. 

Warblers, Townsend, 298, 394. 

Virginia or Rocky Moun- 
tain, 154, 155, 394. 
Yellow, 394. 
Yellow Palm, 8. 
Wasps, l(i5, 243. 

mud, 207, 209. 
nests of, 101, 230, 237. 
spider-killing, 165-167. 
Water-boatmen, 207. 
Water-cress, 103. 
Water-spouts, 10, 11. 
Water-thrush, Louisiana, 315. 
Whip-poor-will, Mexican, 218, 388. 

Ridgway, 216-218, 
224, 388. 
Whirlwinds, 59, 60, 86. 
Widgeon, 104, 382. 

Wood-hewer, Swainson, 322-324, 388. 
Woodpeckers, 230, 315. 

Elegant, 146-148, 387. 
Gila, 387. 

Guatemalan, 286, 387. 
Imperial, 286. 
Mexican Pileated, 206. 

_ 387. 
Sinaloa Ladder-back, 
247, 387. 
Wren. Mexican Cactus, 95. 395. 

Mexican Canyon, 02, 140-142, 
149, 161, 162, 215, 221, 255, 
263, 395. 
Oak Forest, 305, 395. 
Sinaloa, 101, 395. 

Yaguarondi, 326, 327, 330, 397. 
Yellow-legs. 118, 384. 

Greater, 118, 384. 
Yodel of Mexican hunters, 197. 
Yucatan, 11, 12. 

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